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Monday, August 11, 2014

Are You Looking At My Grass?

12 Of Our Favourite Ornamental Grasses

Posted By: Rebecca van der Zalm in Grasses

In the age of instant gratification, high-tech and time poor, homeowners everywhere have cried out for gardens that look good, but need no work. While we can't promise 'no work', ornamental grasses can deliver low maintenance and easy care.  With hundreds to choose from and multiple seasons of interest, grasses are a great utilitarian addition to any garden. They can also deliver a head-turning experience. On a recent trip to Crescent Beach (near White Rock), we even saw one house with the ENTIRE landscape done with ornamental grasses. So when somebody asks, hey are you looking at my grass? The answer may be yes... :)

Here are 12 of some of our favourite ornamental grasses for the garden. Some are cool season, meaning they look best in the spring and fall. These types tend to be evergreen. Other ornamental grasses are warm-season. These ones are best during the heat of the summer and early fall. Then they die back to re-appear next year.

Mexican Feather Grass

Mexican Feather Grass

Stipa tenuissima

This summer-time favourite grass has needle thin, flexible foliage that grow 1.5ft tall and as wide. It is a fine textured grass that produces feathery spikes in early summer which resemble a blonde mane of hair. Very showy in the landscape and great when planted in groups. It is native to the rocky slopes of the southwestern US and Mexico. To grow this grass, choose a fertile, well drained location in the full to part sun. It tolerates most soil conditions but dislikes ‘wet feet’.

Japanese Blood Grass

Japanese Blood Grass

Imperata cylindrical ‘Red Baron’

This colourful warm season, spreading grass has green blades with tips that turn translucent red with age. Awesome when planted in groups or in containers. Spreads via rhizomatous roots in warm, moist conditions. Clumps are easily divided in spring. Easy to grow! Will reach 24 inches in height and 12 inches across. Best when planted in full sun to part shade. Hardy to zone 6.

Karl Foerster Feather Grass

Karl Foerster Feather Grass

Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’

This landscaper’s favourite is a tall, deciduous, clumping grass with an upright narrow form. Shiny, deep green leaves give way to tall spikes of feathery flowers that start white with a hint of purple then fade to yellow and buff. Best in full to part sun and drought tolerant once established. Grows to 6ft in height and 4ft wide. Excellent in boulevards, containers, gardens and even commercial installations or mass plantings. Hardy to zone 4.

Ivory Feathers Pampas Grass

Ivory Feathers Pampas Grass

Cortaderia selloana ‘Pumila’

Ivory Feathers is a dwarf form of the traditional pampas grass that is well suited for small gardens or used as a specimen. Handsome summer and fall flowers made of long stalks of white plumes are held above the foliage. It has a clumping growth habit and is drought tolerant once established. It’s also good in coastal or seaside locations. Best when planted in full sun. Grows 3-5ft in height and 4-6ft wide. Hardy in to Zone 7.

Porcupine Grass

Porcupine Grass

Miscanthus sinensis ‘Strictus’

This upright, summer-time grass has a more upright form as opposed to the more normal relaxed vase shaped habits of other Miscanthus. Green foliage is highlighted by dramatic horizontal golden bands. Reddish bronze plumes appear above the foliage in summer. A suitable specimen for planting in groups. Dies back in winter to reappear in the late spring. Grows to 8ft tall and 3ft wide. Best when planted in full sun. Hardy in zones 5-9.

Aureola Japanese Forest Grass

Aureola Japanese Forest Grass

Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’

This low growing, mound forming, shade-loving grass produces bamboo like foliage with gold streaked with green. Foliage in weeping and can turn intense pinkish red in the fall. Wonderful accent for containers, edging and oriental gardens. Best when planted in the shade to part shade in fertile, moist but well drained soil. Grows 12-18 inches tall and up to 30 inches wide.

Black Mondo Grass

Black Mondo Grass

Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’

This outstanding evergreen grass-like perennial forms a dense clump of smooth-textured black leaves topped with spikes of pale pink flowers which are followed by black, pearl-sheened berries in fall. Deer resistant and fairly drought tolerant once established. Excellent specimen or accent plant for both containers and gardens. Best when planted in part shade to full sun in moist, but well drained soil. Grows to 6 inches high and slowly spreads in width. Hardy in zones 6-9.

Evergold Sedge

Evergold Sedge

Carex hachijoensis ‘Evergold’

This evergreen, clump forming sedge has attractive narrow, arching variegated cream and dark green leaves. Excellent for adding colour all year round in both gardens and containers. Trim as desired to keep neat and tidy in the winter. Best when planted in part shade and grows to 12 inches high and 18 inches wide. Hardy to zone 5.

Orange Grass

Orange New Zealand Sedge

Carex testacea

Another grass-like plant, the Orange Sedge is an evergreen clumping perennial with narrow coppery brown leaves that acquire orange tints in the winter. Awesome in fall and winter containers, rock gardens or mass plantings. Self-seeds with adequate moisture. Best in full to part sun. Grows to 15 inches high and wide. Hardy to zone 6.

Purple Fountain Grass

Purple Fountain Grass

Pennisetum setaceum ‘Rubrum’

This spectacular warm-season grass has narrow, upright, arching, burgundy-purple leaves with elegantly long, fluffy foxtail-like flower spikes that are purple-pink with a silver sheen. Flowers dance in the wind and turn buff as they mature. Makes lovely cut flower and is deer resistant. While it is unmatchable in the summer, it unfortunately, is not hardy in our area and in most cases will not survive the winter. Best when planted in full sun in moist, but well drained soils. Grows to 24 inches in height and 24 inches wide. Hardy to zone 9.

Beyond Blue Fescue

Beyond Blue Fescue

Festuca glauca ‘Beyond Blue’

This hardy, cool season evergreen perennial forms a tufts of intense, powder blue, thread-like leaves. Wheat-like blue-green flowers rise on slender stems and mature to a tan-gold. Beyond Blue Fescue is both salt and deer resistant and also drought tolerant once established. Excellent for adding winter interest too! Best when planted in full sun in light, well-drained soil. Grows to 12 inches high and 18 inches wide. Super hardy to zone 3.

River Mist Northern Sea Oats

River Mist Northern Sea Oats

Chasmanthium latifolium ‘River Mist’

This spectacular warm season perennial grass forms a loose tuft of lovely, arching, green and white variegated foliage and clusters of unique sparkling white seed heads that arch elegantly above. Makes a wonderful cut flower and provides winter interest in the garden. Best when planted in full sun to part shade in moist, fertile, well-drained soil. Will grow to 30 inches high and 36 inches wide. Hardy to zone 5.

If you've been considering adding ornamental grasses into our garden or containers, drop by Art's Nursery and have a look at these and many other options. We'd be happy to show you the options and make recommendations. As always, call ahead to confirm availability as our selection is always changing.


Monday, October 22, 2012
Posted By: Rebecca van der Zalm in Grasses

As you may or may not know, grasses and grass-like plants are divided into two main groups, warm season varieties that look good and perform well when the sun shines and warms the air in summer, and the tougher, hardier, no-nonsense cool season grasses that like our cool spring, autumn and winter.

Cool season grasses tend to be evergreen making them ideal for fall and winter interest, holiday containers and garden fillers when everything else has packed it in for the season. Grasses are also particularly attractive when frosted in the early mornings. Very photogenic!

For the botanical purists, there are grasses and grass-like plants. The genus Carex is not technically a grass, but rather a Sedge. However, for our purposes, we'll lump them together.

While there are dozens of varieties available, this hand picked selection are what we consider tried and true survivors. They look great in a variety of locations, including gardens and containers. They look particularly good when mass planted in a certain area. They are also a great compliment to fill layered bulb bots over the cool season. Give this bunch a try this season.

carex firefox

Firefox Leatherleaf Sedge

Carex buchananii 'Firefox'

A cool season evergreen perennial grass like plant that forms a clump of splendid, fine-textured, deep copper-bronze leaves that curl attractively at the ends. Flowers are subtle, drying to brown seedheads. It's striking in the winter and as a contrast plant.Can also be used in borders, containers and rock gardens. Best grown in full sun to part shade in moist, but well drained soil. Grows 1-2ft in height and spread. Hardy in zones 5-9.

carex ice dance

Ice Dance Sedge

Carex morrowii 'Ice Dance'

This is one you'll either love or hate. Tough large bladed foliage with creamy white edges are the hallmarks of this bold cool season evergreen grass. Ice Dance forms tick, dense clumps of gracefully arching leaves, subtle green flowers and lacy white filaments that dry to brown seedheads. It's slow spreading and easy to grow. Ice Dance Sedge is a brigh addition to borders, containers, woodlands, shade gardens or even on walls and slopes. Best when planted in full sun to part shade and fertile moist soils. Grows to 18 inches in height and spread. Hardy in zones 5-9.

carex evergold

Evergold Weeping Sedge

Carex oshimensis 'Evergold'

Evergold is a beautiful delicate grass ideal for containers, rock gardens and other locations. It forms a striking and versatile, cascading, cool season evergreen grass that forms mounds of crisp yellow leaves banded with dark green borders. FLowers appear in April to May and are earth-toned, with delicate, fuzzy white filaments. Evergold tolerated dry conditions and cascades nicely over edges. Prefers full sun to part shade in fertile, moist, but well drained soil. Grows to a 12 inches in height and twice as wide in spread. Hardy in zones 5-9.

black mondo grass

Black Mondo Grass

Ophiopogon planiscapus 'Nigrescens'

Black Mondo Grass is a one of a kind plant ideal for the halloween season! Midnight black grass blades topped with spikes of pale pink flowers followed by pearl-sheened non-edible berries in fall. Best when planted in full sun to part shade. Moist but well drained soils are preferred. Keeps its foliage in normal west coast winters. Slow growing - ideal for containers. Looks really sharp when planted en masse on accented by anything yellow or lime green. Hardy in zones 6-9.

blue oat grass

Blue Oat Grass

Helictotrichon sempervirens

Blue Out Grass is a striking accent in the garden or containers. It is a very hardy, cool season evergreen perennial grass that forms a mounded clump of tightly rolled blue-grey blades. Similarly coloured, tall-stemmed, wheat-like flowers mature to an attractive buff and last until fall. Blue Oat Grass is also deer resistant and drought tolerant once established. This is an excellent plant for borders, containers, mass plantings, rock gardens and water-wise environments. Best when planted in full sun to part shade in fertile well drained soils. Grows 16 inches in height and 1-2ft across. Hardy in zones 3-9.

carex frosty curls

Frosty Curls Sedge

Carex comans 'Frosty Curls'

This cool season evergreen perennial grass has a shimmering, fine-textured, silvery-green leavesthat curl attractively at the tip and cascade from the centre of the clump. Its a great cool season near-equivalent to the warm season mexican feather grass. Subtle green flowers dry to light brown. Frosty curls trails attractively over walls and planters. It is also perfect in borders, mass plantings, hanging baskets, containers abd woodland gardens. Can also be used in part shade. It's drought resistant once established. Deer resistant. Frosty Curls Sedge is best grown in full to part sun and sandy, well drained soils. Grows to 1ft in height and 1-2 ft across. Hardy in zones 7-9.

These grasses and many other plants like them are available at Art's Nursery year round. As our huge selection is always changing, and if you are making a special trip, please call 604.882.1201 in advance to confirm availability.


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Art's Nursery is a 10+ acre retail and wholesale garden centre located in Surrey, a suburb of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. We've been in business at this same location since 1973 and we're proud to serve you today!

We carry an incredible selection of plants, shrubs, trees, annuals, perennials, vines, groundcovers, roses and much more. Soils, bulk materials, pottery and a variety of garden accents are also available.

Our plant selection is so large that you can actually drive a golf cart while you shop!

We pride ourselves on providing high quality plant, expert advice and an exceptional gardening experience.

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