Ornamental grasses

Whether delicate or strong, short or tall, with or without flowers, ornamental grasses can provide a special kind of interest that flowers along donít or they can be used as a backdrop to flowers.

Bamboos and grasses
Jon Ardle.
New York, N.Y. : DK Pub., s2007.
  1. "Royal Horticultural Society"--T.p. verso.
  2. Includes index.
The encyclopedia of grasses for livable landscapes
text and photography by Rick Darke.
Portland, Or. : Timber Press, 2007.
"Written by noted grass expert and advocate Rick Darke, The Encyclopedia of Grasses for Livable Landscapes covers true grasses as well as sedges, rushes, restios, and cattails. Introductory chapters emphasize the unique physical beauty of grasses and discuss how they fit into the ecological and cultural landscapes in which we live and the key roles they play in a wide range of garden designs. Practical information on selection, planting, cultivation, propagation, and maintenance is also provided." "The heart of the book is a comprehensive encyclopedia of the plants themselves. General descriptions of each genus are followed by succinct but thorough coverage of species and cultivars that have ornamental merit or that can contribute to ecological plantings. Appearance, height, spread, behavior, and hardiness are all detailed." "More than 1000 photographs show details of individual plants and hundreds of gardens and landscapes in which grasses play a prominent part."--BOOK JACKET.
Timber Press pocket guide to ornamental grasses
text and photography by Rick Darke.
Portland, Or. : Timber Press, 2004.
A landscape designer formerly with Longwood Gardens (in Pennsylvania) introduces the virtues and cultivation of true grasses and grasslike plants grouped as ornamental grasses. The A-Z guide's color photos show off the diversity of these increasingly popular low maintenance plants. Darke includes grasses for specific niches, US and European hardiness zone maps, nursery sources, a glossary, further reading, and photographic specifics. Annotation ©2004 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
Ornamental grasses for the southeast
Peter Loewer.
Nashville, Tennessee. : Cool Springs Press, c2003.
Ornamental grasses have been a part of landscape design for decades, mostly in commercial landscape settings. Readers discover how to use these strikingly beautiful, virtually carefree plants to complement their own home's landscape.

Grasses are the largest family of the flowering plants and there are numerous varieties of ornamental grasses. Some grasses are tufted, growing in clumps and usually upright, while others are mounded with thick, arching leaves.  Some are distinguished by their triangular stems and leaves that are ďthree ranked.Ē Rushes, such as cattails, are those that grow in wet or moist areas.

Some ornamental grasses spread through underground ryhzones while others flower, then form seed heads, which can be dried for decorations. Unless they are in an area that one doesnít mind if they spread, some varieties will need to be kept in check.

A selection of grasses can be made for their color, shape, form, height, or texture. In a larger garden the sight of ornamental grasses waving in the wind, or the rustling sound of the stronger varieties can be pleasing to the eyes and ears.

The colors of grasses may be green, red, tan, brown, variegated, or striped. Popular small to medium varieties include sea oats, tufted hair, liriope, festucas, and fountain grasses. The larger ones are pampas, porcupine, and zebra grasses.  One of the largest and also most invasive is bamboo.

Dividing grasses

Plants need to be divided to maintain their spacing in the garden. Cut the plant as close to the ground as you can before digging it. After digging, splitting can be done with a saw, ax, spade or garden fork, or torn apart by hand. Dig the hole large enough for the new clump and place it just below the soil surface.

Most grasses are easily maintained and need little care after they have been planted.  Watering them well the first year will help the roots to develop. When there is a longer dry period more watering is needed, varying with the type of grass, the size of the plants, and their location.

Leaving the grass standing during the winter helps protect the crown of the plant. Be sure to cut them back in the spring so that growth begins earlier.

Article by: St. Louis Public Library staff