Ornamental grasses are my destiny

It was time to get down to business yesterday afternoon.  
I grabbed my camera, my phone, a notebook, a pen and my shitkicking boots and headed out into the yard. It may have been bitterly cold with a wind chill in like the single digits, but I didn’t care. There was serious work to get done and a little frostbite wasn’t going to get in the way. 
So there I was, in full on planning mode with a single minded purpose of determining which existing garden beds would be extended (short answer: all of them) and where would new beds be created (short answer: everywhere). As you may know, I live on a 2+ acre property that was a complete blank canvas when we moved in back in late 2004. I’ve done my best to add as many trees, shrubs and perennials as possible, but there is still a long ass way to go. It can become overwhelming at times but who am I to complain? The possiblities are endless (well not really; the deer are a nightmare, the soil sucks … sorry … where was I?). 
As I surveyed my lot and started drawing imaginary bed lines in my head (notebook and pen were a bad idea, my fingertips still haven’t recovered), I came to a relatively easy realization; I am going to focus mainly on adding ornamental grasses to the landscape. This is generally borne out of necessity based on my previously documented struggles with deer and wet soil, but it also felt like a welcome challenge. Could I make a high volume of ornamental grasses look natural and appealing? Could I add just the right number of non-grasses to keep things interesting and varied? 
All of this will be worked on feverishly the next few months and as always, I’ll be documenting it all along the way. I plan on adding some seriously large grasses that are in the 8-12 foot range and some new mid-size grasses I’ve been researching for a while now. But most importantly, I am making a serious commitment to dividing my existing grasses and spreading the wealth all over the yard. Yes, I’ll be savings some serious dinero, but the manual effort will be epic.
What has two thumbs and can handle any physical challenge thrown his way? This guy (now imagine me pointing to myself with a cocky grin for the true effect for that riddle.) 
For today, I want to address my grass detractors (you know who you are … or maybe I made you up for false inspiration) by demonstrating that grasses are not only good for their fall display and little else. Yes, they typically put on their best show in late summer and fall, but they can shine at other times as well. They are a great complement to blooming shrubs and perennials and also offer great foliage contrast to non-blooming shrubs and perennials.
And here is my Exhibit A:                                       

Joe Pye Weed and Miscanthus ‘Morning Light’ (Summer)

Joe Pye Weed and Miscanthus ‘Morning Light’ (Fall)

Peony and Panicum (Switch grass)

Penstemon ‘Husker’s Red’ and Panicum (Switch grass)

Spirea ‘Snowstorm’, Viburnum ‘Aurora’ and Miscanthus ‘Gracillimus’

Weigela ‘Wine and Roses’ and Panicum (Switch grass)
Panicum (Switch grass) blooms and Rudbeckia
Spirea ‘Anthony Waterer’ and Panicum (Switch grass)

Rose of Sharon and Miscanthus ‘Gracillimus’

Feel the love? I know I do.

More to come my friends …


12 thoughts on “Ornamental grasses are my destiny

  1. Kathryn

    I have very much been a grass detractor but you’re making me into a believer. It looks like such an easy way to create some privacy (of which I have none).

  2. Modern Mia

    I am not yet convinced enough to plant ornamental grasses in our yard (30 years later I still get the shakes remembering the time I had to trim the pampas grass my mom planted in our yard only to find snakes and roach nests) so I’m going to live vicariously through you. You make it look delightful and easy.

  3. The Idiot

    Over two acres, and you’re growing grasses? It’s lucky I’ve run out of rope, or Mrs IG would come home to my boots drifting gently in the stairwell!

  4. scottweberpdx

    I’m there with you…grasses are the bomb 🙂 I think if I could go back in time to when I started my garden I would definitely have planted more grasses from the beginning…using them as the anchors for the whole garden.

  5. James Golden

    Great idea, especially in a place where the deer outnumber the people. Grasses are beautiful, even in early summer, though in fall they’re in their glory. And I’ve discovered you can hide other perennials inside groups of grasses. The deer don’t notice (usually). And many of them (miscanthus in particular) love it wet.

  6. kimberlyfawn

    I just started following your blog and we are on the same track. 2+ acres of dirt in 2007, so I’m a little behind and I have at least 22 deer who feel that I am the intruder, sigh.. Had so many garden ideas and have instead become a pro at what Not to plant, lol! I also decided to go with grasses this year so I will be following you closely for co-inspiration. We also seem to be using some of the same plants, likely because of the critters, although my yard leans more to the dry side. 🙂 Your blog is great!

  7. Landscape Design By Lee

    Good for you John getting right out there and planning away. I’m not quite there yet here on Long Island but keep gazing out the window to do my planning. Grasses are great for deer…they just don’t like them…and they add beautful grace and movement to the garden. Also Barberry, Spirea, Nepeta, Russian Sage, Salvia,etc. are not perferred by deer and can go nicely with the grasses. Have fun-spring is around the corner!

  8. Lori Wescott

    Ooh, this is inspiring me to get going with my tiny backyard plans. Due to lack of square footage, I feel the need to add verticality this year. I didn’t realize that ornamental grasses could get that tall.

  9. Deborah

    Your great photos display how nicely the ornamental grasses blend
    and add as a backdrop among your perennials and shrubs. I’m
    impressed! Can truly see why grasses have gained such popularity
    with their many uses! Not to mention how relatively easy they are
    to care for.
    You definitely have the space and conditions to go WILD! Perhaps
    using this concept to place some grasses on your property as if
    Mother Nature, placed them there.- is a suggestion !!

  10. Anonymous

    A couple of thoughts for you…

    With your ground so wet, you would be wise to start looking at bog plants. These are plants that like “their feet wet, ankles dry” for growing conditions.

    Sweet Flag (Acornus sp.) comes in tall, short, skinny, fat and has the added effect that when crushed is a natural mosquito deterrent.

    Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis) for some lovely flowers that the hummingbirds love, love, love.

    Canna sp. They love wet feet.

    Lizard’s Tail (Saururus cernuus)

    Pickerel Rush (Pontederia cordata)

    Sagittaria graminea

    Sagittaria latifolia

    Peltandra virginica

Comments are closed.