Gorgeous grasses in the garden

If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile then you know I love grasses.

And luckily they’ve become a common sight in most nurseries, with so many amazing selections from which to choose.

Yes, grasses are all the rage and for good reason.

Why?  Generally speaking, grasses will grow in just about any type of soil, most are drought tolerant and diseases and pests aren’t usually an issue.

(to see more of this garden and how I used grasses to foil the deer, click here!)



Not only are they tough as nails, but there’s a size that’s perfect for any situation.

From the tiny black mondo grass, to mid-size Blue Oat grass, to the long and arching blades of purple fountain grass.

Need more convincing?  How about the fact that they come in a rainbow of colors: ruby red, steel blue, jet black, chartreuse, pink, brown, orange and variegated forms.


I particularly like the way the finely textured foliage of grass complements neighboring plants with bolder leaves and/or flowers.

The contrast helps both plants stand out just a bit more than they would on their own.

The roses in this photo are pretty enough, but when nestled near the blue fescue, an eye-popping combination is created.



Don’t forget fall color!

Many grasses, such as this Hakone grass, turn brilliant shades of gold once the temperatures start to drop.

And because of the thin and wispy foliage of this variety, when a soft breeze passes through, it’ll gently sway in the wind providing another much needed design element to your garden – movement.



I love the creative ways gardeners and designers are using grasses as more than just another plant in a planting bed.

For example, instead of filling an elevated urn with annuals or perennials, a single specimen of grass looks just as elegant, while making a bold statement.

In Freeland and Sabrina Tanner’s garden, look how they’ve used the bronze colors of the carex to harmonize with the rusty iron container in which it’s planted.


Another reason you might want to consider elevating your grass in a container is to help it ‘stand out from the crowd’.

Sometimes plants with finely textured foliage can get lost among other showier plants.

When elevated in a container, however, the foliage can not only be appreciated up close but it’s given a pride of placement, turning it into a showpiece.



One of my favorites is this bench in David Rolston’s Dallas garden, topped with soft and mounding grasses.

Don’t you just want to run your hands through it?  Or better yet, lie down and take a nap on it?




In another part of David’s garden are these casual and grassy stone steps leading from one terrace to another.

Instead of using pebbles in between the ledgers, he’s used grass to provide a softer landing both physically and visually.


This planter, created by Gary Ratway and Mike Lucas for Cornerstone Gardens, is made using old gasoline tanks which are typically stored underground.

I’m so much happier seeing beautiful grasses spilling out of them instead, aren’t you?

So next time you’re at the nursery, instead of seeking out the more common perennials won’t you also consider a grass or two?  I’d love to see what creative combination you come up with!



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  • Okay. Convinced. Especially by that first photo with all those long tall grasses that seem to be swaying in the wind. It will be interesting to work them into the landscaping. Love it that they have no issues with pests and diseases.

    • I agree, Katy. My favorite photo is probably those tall Karl Foerster grasses, too. Beautiful AND very little pest issues? Sign me up!!

    • Thanks Pam – your harsh climate is perfect for them and I’m sure they add so much beauty to your designs!

  • Yep, love them more every day…honestly, for awhile I wasn’t a fan, but Piet Oudolf changed my mind set.

    Your photos and words are an inspiration. Can’t wait to do more with grasses.



    • I’m with you, Sharon! It’s only in the past few years that I’ve fallen in love with grasses in large part because of Piet Oudolf and John Greenlee’s beautiful designs. I just bought two of the most beautiful orange carex and planted them near a ‘limelight’ hydrangea and the color and texture combinations are stunning. Every time I walk by them it takes my breath away!

  • Rebecca,

    I’ve also been a big fan of grasses since reading one of Piet Oudolf’s first book. He was so bold, even back then, in using grasses with abandon.
    You’re idea of placing a solo one on a pedestal is a great one…am going to try it…perfect for a rooftop.
    David Rolston’s use of grasses between the ledges is sublime…thanks for sharing. Fran

    • Thanks Fran – I think David Rolston wins the ‘most creative use of grasses’ award in all the gardens I’ve seen over the past few years. I loved everything I saw there!

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