Landscaping Grasses

How to make the most of your yard with ornamental landscaping grasses that multi-task and look fabulous.
Many Grasses have Ornamental Seedheads

Many Grasses have Ornamental Seedheads

©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

Grasses are useful in different types of landscapes ranging from formal gardens to native, plains and meadows. Grasses add a significant vertical presence to the winter landscape with their attractive seedheads.

Grass is for more than just your lawn – there are dozens of landscape grasses that make great accents for your yard and garden, too. If you're afraid of finicky flowers or simply want to supplement your existing flowers and shrubs with soft-edged plants, landscaping with grasses is for you. With varieties in a range of colors and textures, ornamental grasses are great for creating curb appeal and finding solutions for problem areas on your property. 

How to choose landscape grasses for your next landscape design project: 

Purpose:

Take a look at your existing landscaping and decide how you will integrate landscape grasses into the mix – as groundcover or bed fillers, for visual emphasis or for an "empty" area in your lawn? Will you use grasses in place of flowers or to border a path or hide a mailbox post?

Adaptability:

Do a little research on which grasses work well for your local topography and climate. Some grasses such as cattails can become invasive in marshy areas but won't thrive in drier regions; feather reedgrass resembles sea oats but requires well-drained soil; little bluestem is perfect for the prairie but can't withstand heat and humidity.

Height:

Decide how tall the grasses should be. Will you use more than one type of grass together in a bed or along a border? Ornamental grasses can vary greatly in their mature growth height and range from as little as a few inches high to more than 12 feet tall. Shorter grasses such as Japanese forestgrass or purple fountaingrass make fitting substitutes for low-profile flowers and small shrubs, while tall varieties like switchgrass or cordgrass are perfect for privacy borders.

Texture:

The appeal of many landscape grasses is in their softness and the way they bend with the wind. While stiffer grasses such as zebragrass or blue fescue look great in pots and maintain their upright postures, fuzzy grasses like Indian grass or pampas have wispy foliage that moves gracefully.

Color:

You can fill an entire bed with nothing but ornamental grasses and have as much color variety as you would in a bed full of flowers. What's more: many ornamental grasses are planted as perennials and will mature each year with little maintenance and nurturing. In spite of its morbid name, Japanese bloodgrass is a fiery friend to yards in need of a color boost. Bowles' golden sedge is a delicate grass with a vibrant yellow-green hue that mimics the first of spring year-round.

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