There is a lot more to grass than something that makes up a lawn. Grasses can be used in many ways with some varieties being particularly ornamental. If you are looking for ways to be experimental in your garden than combining grasses with other plants can be very effective. It is important however that you don’t combine too many types of grass together as this can create a messy look.
Cereal grains you find in the countryside are also part of the grass family and can make surprisingly attractive plants.
Some ornamental grasses you should look for include:
Festuca glauca – In the summer it’s leaves turn a pretty powder blue, however you will be required to divide the plant every spring.
Blue Oat Grass – Also known as “Helictotrichon Sempervirens”, this grass grows thin blades that arch as they get taller. Blooming early in the summer months, the color of this grass comes in with silver overtones and changes to a straw-like colour when extremely dry.
Stipa tenuifolia – Long and pale, this grass produces cream coloured flower-heads.
Pennisetum orientalis – This grows to a height of 30cm high and has brush plumes which are edged in pink.
Silver Variegated Maiden Grass – This type of grass has very fine blades and form into a silver color. Also known as “Miscanthus Sinensis”, it grows very tall and complements flowers which are of reddish tones.
Feather Reed Grass – One of the most durable of all grasses, this grass is also known as “Calamagrostis Acutiflora”. It grows straight up and stays vertical even when sustaining heavy breezes. Feather Reed Grass tends to bloom early in the summer.
Bamboo is a very popular member of the grass family and is ideal if you are looking to create a Japanese influenced garden. They come in all different sizes and colours so be sure to read up as much about each variety as possible so you don‘t end up with a bamboo that is not suitable for your size of garden. The largest varieties can grow to 20m in height however can only be grown in tropical climates. If you live in a more temperate climate such as the UK, then the largest variety you will be able to grow is Arundinaria japonica which grows to 5m. If you have a small garden then your best choice would be A. murilea or A.nitida which grows to a height of 3m, or A. variegata and A. viridistrata which only grow to the height of 1m.
Grains such as oats, rye and barley are ideal for those gardeners who wish to encourage wildlife into their gardens, birds will be especially grateful for this extra source of food. You will need to buy seeds from a seed merchant and grow them in early spring. When planting oats and rye, be aware that these grow quite tall so should be planted at the back of a border. Wheat and barley on the other hand are shorter so should be grown at the front.
Caring for grasses
Luckily grasses are very easy to care for as they are hardy perennials and caring for them only extends to a quick tidy up in late winter and a feed of a high-nitrogen fertilizer in the summer. Just be aware that these grasses can have sharp edges so you will probably want to wear gloves.