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Are ornamental grasses becoming less popular? I love them but it seems I am in the minority. Some are invasive by seeding or runners but for form, colour and movement in the garden....even in still conditions.....grasses have a lot to offer. Anybody growing them?
Miss Becks

Afraid not chris. I have enough trouble with my normal grass growing, let alone ornamental stuff! I'm sure someone will have a garden full!


Hi Chris,

I don't think they are out of fashion but maybe used differently than they used to be?

In my own garden I use ornamental grasses but plant them along with irises and crocosmias to give a sort of semi-formal look. My reason for this is that I have an area of short mown lawn neatly edged and surrounded by perennial borders. My 'semi-formal' planting including ornamental grasses creates a gradual transition over to the bottom lawn which is a wild-flower lawn. I've found this soft transition from the very formal to the wild and non-formal part of the garden works quite well to link two completely 'opposite' parts of the garden?

My only thoughts are that you do have to be careful as to which grasses you use as some are extremely invasive! I did inherit an ornamental grass with the garden and although I've dug out all the large clumps I'm still plagued by bits popping up all over the place!!....

It would be interesting to see how others use these grasses?




we have some in our front garden althgh my partner is considering getting rid of ours althgh i highly doubt he will manage this lol i think they are lovely and i am thinking of buying somemore for our raised beds out in our back garden unbeknown to my partner ofcourse lol think they are lovely plants so no your not the onl one

Gary Hobson

I agree with the observation made by original poster - ornamental grasses (as distinct from native grasses) are becoming less popular. They are with me.

There was a fashion trend, a few years ago, when ornamental grasses were being plugged regularly on TV gardening shows. I bought several, from small ones, to the biggest. They all grew well.

But having bought them, you begin to realise their deficiencies. I'm keen on wildlife, and for me, the main 'problem' is that ornamental grasses are completely useless to wildlife. Nothing eats them, no catterpilars feed on them, there are no berries, nothing nests in them. They take up space, that would be better used for native plants (and grasses).

There is still a lot of scope for growing varieties of native grasses, which are useful, especially to butterflies, though these are never recommended on TV shows.


When I cut down my grasses, I leave bundles around for the birds to use for nesting material. My favourite is stipa tennuissima, which doesn't grow huge, and dances delightfully in the slightest breeze. I also have a couple of beefier miscanthus, their flower heads stand through the winter, and a colony of very pretty green cricket like bugs take up residence in them every year.

I did notice that Cleve West's garden at Chelsea had not a single ornamental grass in it this year so maybe that's a death knell to their recent fashion status.

I like them in the right place but not too many because, as Gary says, they're not so wildlife friendly as they're wind pollinated though I do get birds eating their seed heads.

I use miscanthus zebrinus to help screen my natural pond from the rest of the garden as it tends to dry out in summer and looks unsightly.  It's there for drainage and wildlife so is unlined.  I really like carex buchananii for its bronze colour and swaying habit in a breeze.  It looks good all year, even in winter.   I have other tall miscanthus which I use as a windbreak on my eastern border (Siberian gusts of wind in winter) and between a roadside bed and my greenhouse so stray stones don't smash the glass.  I have molinia Transparent in the bed above the pond where it can enjoy damp soil.   Pennisetums have fabulous leaf colour and good seed heads but are way too nesh for my garden conditions in winter.  Blue fescue is no good here either.

I wouldn't ever plant a border full of grasses though.  I like more variety of colour and leaf shape and also flowers in my borders.

Ok......I'm in the minority then. I grow miscanthus doesn't seed, forms a clump and looks right now like a fountain of green and white. I grow a purple actea and salvia patens alongside and the grass looks fresh and wonderful. Stipa gigantea, the golden oat grass rises behind some tallish perennials and just trembles in the breeze. Elymus magellanicus is steel blue, non seeding and is Linear contrast to. A yellow leaved santolinas, blue linum perennial, berberis purpureum nana make lovely scene but the blue grass is what most people ask about. You have to choose wisely but the range of colours in foliage is pennisetum rubrum, pennisetum fireworks, Imperata, etc., to yellow Bowles golden grass, hakonechloa and libertias to white Arrhenatherum that has white foliage throughout winter and spring. Deschampsia is currently billowing in the breeze, as is stipa tennuisima......not growing grasses? Pennisetum villosum doesn't seed but has huge white caterpillar-like blooms soon and then until the end of the year. Finally stipa comans bronze has foxy coloured foliage, is evergreen and arches.....lovely in a tall chimney pot or in dry part of the garden. Come on folks, you don't know what you are missing

Stipas don't like my garden either.  Neither gigantea nor th epheasant tail survived their first winter.  I have several clumps of assorted miscanthus though and they do look good with things like verbena bonariensis, lysimachia alba clethroides, Joe Pye weed, tall phloxand helenium Lemon Queen, depending on where I have them.

Grasses provide texture and movement but do not a whole garden make.

No, grasses provide linear shapes and form amongst the usual foliage and flowering stuff in the garden. People are still missing the quality grasses like hakonechloa that are easy in pots or ground but .i guess alone I must remain in this...aah !
Gary Hobson
christopher2 wrote (see)
...i guess alone I must remain in this...aah !

You're not alone. There will be many others who share your view.

We all have our own ideas about what our garden is 'for', and why we do it.

Some people, like yourself, are purely concerned with visual appearances. There are many gardeners like that.

Some people, like me, are interested in the relation of our gardens to the natural environment, so wildlife considerations are paramount.

Some people like to grow vegetables, just because they enjoy doing it. They would doubtless say that ornamantal grasses are a complete waste of time, though for quite different reasons than the one I gave.

And there are many other views too.

I try to grow most things Gary, but it's good we are not all the same. A friend loves her cottage garden with seedlings popping up everywhere nd colour to jar the senses. Not for me but she loves it. Another grows nothing but fuschias....standards, pots, in the garden, everywhere in a small enclosed garden. I see no form or structure but that's my Problem not hers. Another grows without killing anything..ants, slugs, etc and her garden is a me. To her though it is fine. That's as it should be
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Last Post: 12/07/2012 at 11:36

christopher2:  I've just bought a few small grasses this past couple of months - Uncinia rubra (Golden Grass) and Briza Media.  The Uncinia is to brighten up foliage in a very green shrub area and the Briza is to create a romantic feathery type feature eventually to backdrop tall pink perennials.  My garden is small and whilst doesn't have much structure and has limitations in conditions - my aim is just to have colour. BUT - because this garden is hemmed in by high buildings, the late afternoon and evening sun in summer shines over the tall buildings into  one particular area and makes everything (particularly pinks and grasses) translucent so is beautiful - and this is why I have the Briza in particular. It's light and looks fairylike when the sun catches it.  So I love them.  And the Uncinia is just beautiful - but I was only able to get one just now with the plan to get more.  I think its truly beautiful even if clumplike.

You might like foliage and greyish flowers and elymus magellanicus which is evergreen....well, ever BLUE because the foliage is a lovely blue,like colour. Uncinia is evergreen too, can turn even redder at different times. Is your garden shady then or sunny? Clearly you love your plot so you have you will get what you want in your garden. Heucheras contrast well with grasses with their colourful foliage...???
Gary, no visual appearance is not only what I want. I grow loads of scented plants...scented flowers and foliage. I think what would a blind person want in a garden? Scent, tactile plants and sound, this vi a water feature. Visual only? Never

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