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Glorious Grasses

Posted on 19th Oct, 2011

Ornamental grasses play an invaluable part in the planting palette of today’s Garden Designer.

Red and Orange Autumn fireworks of Panicum

The variety of grasses now readily accessible ensures that there is a grass suitable for almost all types of planting condition.  The huge range of textures, sizes, forms, colours and flowering times combine to make grasses valuable garden plants, offering a wealth of interest. Grasses also appeal also for their seasonal changes, their movement and their sound.

To quote Rick Darke – International expert on Ornamental Grasses

“Grasses are the first to tell of every caressing summer breeze. Their lissome stalks and flowers flutter and bow, dancing before every winter wind. Supple and sinuous in their yielding, they paint portraits of the wind. As they move, they sing in tones ranging from a low rustle to a staccato rattle. This sound and movement add immeasurably to the vibrancy of the garden and to its resonance with the wider landscape .”   (The Colour Encyclopedia of Ornamental Grasses, Timber Press 1999 )

In Autumn many grasses come into their own offering showy end of season hues which set the garden ablaze with colour, echoing the many colours of trees in the wider landscape. Having spent all summer growing many are only now beginning to bloom and send up their flowers. Plumes of Miscanthus vary in colour from silver, buff, purple to red and many fade to buff and stand well into winter providing valuable structure to the winter garden. Panicum a late developer also comes into its own offering some wonderful foliage colours, which when caught by the low sun can offer its very own firework display.

Buff autumn plumes of Stipa calamagrostis with faded seed heads of Echinacea & Verbena bonariensis with red stems of Cornus alba will stand well into winter

While it is undeniable that grasses have become more popular among the gardening public not everyone is yet persuaded of their value and some clients need to be convinced that these more “modern” plants have their place, even in the more traditional border. However, some are more convinced when we tell them that the great gardening doyenne Gertrude Jekyll pronounced her favourite grass to be Miscanthus!

At Gardenmakers we find it hard to do a planting scheme without including at least one or two grasses. Even small schemes merit the inclusion of a Stipa or Festuca depending on the colour palette and conditions. Grasses for shade also add value for offering different foliage and texture to more traditional shade tolerant plants.  All in all, there is a grass to suit almost every condition and we get much pleasure introducing our clients to the glory of grasses.

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