||by Colleen Miko CPH|
Colleen's - A Landscape Design Company
Ornamental grasses are an important component of any landscape. They have a shape that works well in certain spots: softening the edges of paths, ponds or structures; flowing over the lip of a container and providing a contrast of texture and shape to woody plants. Generally speaking, ornamental grasses need minimal care and tend to be tough and unharmed by human activities that could do serious damage to more brittle plants.
For this reason they make good border plants near kids' play areas and walkways. Since there is an abundance of grasses offered at your local nursery, it can be overwhelming to decide on which will be best for your garden. I am here to offer some suggestions after trying many kinds in my own garden, where 25 or more different kinds still thrive.
Some of my favorite ornamental grasses are in the Carex genus, which are not actually true grasses, but are referred to as such since they appear so similar. The Carex, whose common name is Sedge, are some of the best known evergreen grasses for the Pacific Northwest and some of the easiest plants we can grow.
My favorite is Carex ‘Evergold’ (pictured left). This reliable evergreen becomes an 18” high mound with a 2’girth in full sun or partial shade. It has fine, creamy yellow and green striped blades and is tidy year ‘round. Its coloration makes it a perfect neighbor to golden foliage or flowers and stands out nicely against plants of a very deep green or those with purple leaves. In other words, it looks great with any companion! It is long lived in the garden, which is unusual for the evergreen Carex, many of which last only a few years.
Even though Carex albula ‘Frosty Curls’ with its silvery mop and Carex buchananii (Leather leaf Sedge) with its upright rusty tones live only 2-3 years, they are colorful and compact and there are no other grasses quite like them. I have found Carex. testacea (Orange New Zealand Sedge) to be a long lived evergreen with bright orange highlights to the blades and a graceful flowing shape. It grows to be 18” and does well in full sun to partial shade. I like to interplant it with daffodils that have orange centers for a bold spring statement.
One tip for maintaining the evergreen ornamental grasses when they get a bit shaggy is to give them a good combing!Since brand new blades grow alongside old, dead blades, I use a toothed horse comb to brush from the base outwards. This trick removes only the dead blades, cleaning them up during the summer, when you wouldn’t want to trim them back uniformly, lest they look cropped all season long.
Besides the Sedges, there are many garden-worthy grasses, and you’ll likely want more once you try one. The CPH (Certified Professional Horticulturist) on staff at your local nursery can help you find ornamental grasses that will be perfect for your situation, and fuel a lifelong love for these useful plants.
Colleen Miko, CPH
Colleen's, a Landscape Design Company
Port Orchard, www.colleenmiko.com