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Ornamental Grasses

Ornamental Grasses

Ornamental grasses are a useful addition to our French gardens, being both versatile and easy to maintain.

The vast range of sizes -  from the small 25cm/10in to the gigantic 5m/17ft - means they can both fill in a small space in a border or command a significant place in a typical large French country garden. They can be planted in single or small numbers as specimen plants or in larger groups as backdrops or hedges of varying heights. They can add volume and height to the garden as well as movement, and further sensory appeal with rustling leaves and tactile feathery plumes. They make excellent screens, forming a fluid, semi-opaque barrier for a terrace, patio or pool area, and capturing the sun's rays in their flowers and seed heads.

They are drought tolerant and can handle full sun and dry soil, while some varieties will also tolerate part shade and clay soils. They are not troubled by pests and diseases, and an annual cutting back in the spring (allowing winter interest) and occasional spring division (every few years) make them a very low maintenance, trouble-free plant.

There are many varieties to choose from. The following are all are hardy and do well over here.

Pennisetum villosum

50 cm. Full sun.

The profusion of feathery plumes makes this one of the most asked for grasses in our nursery. It is very pretty and soft to the touch, and at only 50 cm high it doesn't have to be placed right at the back of a border. It’s good for softening edges and corners.

Miscanthus Yakushima-

60/70 cm. Full sun.

Pink flowers, in mid/late summer, gradually turn silver, providing late winter interest.

Miscanthus zebrinus

1.8m. Full sun.

Attractive horizontal cream bands on the leaves give this plant its name.  Long-lasting flowers bloom from late summer, making it good for winter interest. Its size makes it good for planting as a specimen or in small groups.

Panicum virgatum Rotstrahlbusch

1m. Full sun.

Red tinged leaves make this grass useful for winter colour.

Festuca glauca

40 cm. Full sun.

Grey-blue coloured, needle-like leaves form tight mounds, making this a small, compact grass, with a neat appearance.

Stipa gigantia

2.5 m Full sun.

This clump forming grass flowers from June/July to early winter. The long stemmed flowers make it an excellent choice for movement and for use as a specimen plant. It is also good for using in dried flower arrangements.

Calamagrostis brachytricha

1m. Full sun or part shade.

Another clump forming grass. The tall fluffy flower heads are an attractive silvery grey colour with pink/purple tints.

Muhlenbergia capillaris

1 M. Full sun or partial shade.

This is one of the more dramatic grasses, with a profusion of billowy pink flowers in the autumn. It’s a good one to include if you have clay soil as it is tolerant of poorly drained soil.

Nasella tenuissima

40 - 60 cm.  Full sun.

Formerly called Stipa Tenuissima but renamed, as it is not a stipa, because it is not mound forming. Unlike other varieties, this grass is not cut back, but simply requires dead-heading, raking out any dead leaves and flowers in the spring.


John and Debbie Wilson


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