My Grasses in Winter

As my regular readers will have gathered by now, I love grasses!


I simply do not have enough of them and hope to remedy that over the next few years. But today I thought I would reflect on those that stand up to winter best in my garden.


First of all my favourite Pennisetum, on the corner of the Herb Bed.

Pennisetum alooecuroides var. viridescens

It is a bushy plant with compact growth which means the dark seedheads remain pretty stable all winter, even with a lot of snow on them. This is a windy corner too, and extremely hot and dry in summer, but the Pennisetum is completely unperturbed by wind or drought. Definitely a thumbs up for this one. 👍

Miscanthus Red Chief and Adagio with Calamagrostis (Karl Foerster) in the Butterfly Bed are still looking fairly fresh and are completely intact.

The Calamagrostis thins down a little over winter making less of a statement, but remains tall and straight with virtually no flopping. Red Chief loses its pink tinge a little, but is a lovely golden brown with a touch of bronze on the seedheads.

Adagio (the smaller Miscanthus further down the bed) flops a little and is more susceptible to the snow, but again it is still a lovely golden brown. Thumbs up!

At the far end of the Butterfly Bed (far left)is Miscanthus sinensis Hermann Müssel…

I am afraid he hasn’t done well for two years in a row so if he doesn’t take off this summer I will move him to another spot. Not one I would chose in future.

Then we have Miscanthus ‘Federweißer’ in the Moon Bed…

…and in the Oval Bed (on the left).

Wonderful! I fell in love with this plant in spring 2020 and now have two fabulous specimens. These are keepers! 👍

The other Miscanthus in the Oval Bed at the front is Beth Chatto. I must say I was not that impressed in the summer, but this is a very sturdy plant with tough stems and has stood up to heavy wet snow quite well. The seedheads have lasted well too.

So, nice for winter interest but with less impact in summer.

Finally, the Erogrostis trichodes…

Despite being on the windiest corner (and getting smothered in heavy snow this winter) it still has the ability to look pretty whatever the weather. Raindrops or frost enable this little grass to stand out, making it a must for my winter garden. It adds some extra sparkle. 😃 (Oh, and do you see those hare pawprints in the snow in the background?!) 🐇

The Panicums and another Miscanthus in the Sunshine Bed have long collapsed or look very dishevelled. I love the strong background they give to this bed in summer among the Helianthus. But they offer very poor winter interest. I know from other bloggers that some Panicums stand up better than others, but I think I prefer to stick with what has already proved successful in this garden… Calamagrostis, Pennisetum and the Miscanthus I have mentioned. More of these will be part of my spring 2021 project.

By the way, my Stipa tenuissima have all been completely buried by the snow. I wonder how long it will take for them to stand up again when it melts….

What grasses do you grow, and do they still look good now? Any recommendations for warm and dry spots would be much appreciated!

Have a great weekend! 💕


33 thoughts on “My Grasses in Winter

  1. I expect the grasses look fabulous when the sun and wind catch them at the same time. Will you grow more from seeds collected from your favourite specimens? You have the space for Oudolf drifts – how dreamy!
    My garden is very wet and all I have grown with any success are Gardener’s Gaiters and Quaking grass, neither in evidence in winter.

    • I love Quaking grasses, but have only been successful with an annual one so far. Perhaps they prefer damp conditions. I won’t try growing from seed as it takes forever. But I have already used a lot of self-seeded Stipa seedlings in other parts of the garden (and have given loads away too… it is a spreader!)

  2. I have always loved the way the grasses look in your garden but I have not any in mine, yet. I have been thinking recently about how important the position of the plants is. I have made lots of errors with my plants and I think that the position of grasses is even more important. I do not think they should be stuck in a little corner of a border. Yours are really set of to advantage in your beds. Amelia

    • That is what happened in my old garden as I found I was just planting where I had a space! So starting from scratch here has given me the chance to correct mistakes I made in the past. One thing I found works for me is starting with a shrub or grass and building around that. Or even planting a few of one type of grass in one bed. There is a grass for every position, garden or taste, so I hope you find some that you like and can incorporate. 😃

  3. I noticed your grasses standing tall above the snow in a previous blog post photo, and marvelled at their resilience. They are a lovely addition to any garden and I love grasses as a backdrop to flowers in a vase.
    In an area at the end of my garden I will be trialling some grasses this year. Our best time of year for planting is late winter, and I am keen to plant a native grass plant called Lomandra. I’ll let you know how it goes. 🙂

    • That is a good point Joanne… grasses in vases add something airy and often striking, and even a vase full of grasses alone can be gorgeous. I am interested to learn more about other grasses and gardening possibilities in other climates, so look forward to seeing your planting. I have never heard
      of Lomandra before.

  4. I admire your grasses and how you’ve used them in your landscape. It’s obvious how much pleasure they bring you and I think that’s the key to planting anything. I’ve only ever planted one grass in my garden, Pink Muhly Grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris). I’ve seen gorgeous plantings of it combined with the white form, that were breathtaking, but mine just faded away. Have a good weekend.

    • I tried to grow Muhly grass once but was so disappointed when it just didn’t flower for me. Maybe too short a season for it here. I always say there is a grass for every garden, but finding the right one is trial and error! 😉

  5. Thanks for the hardy grass review, Cathy. Your beds look great and you have a nice variety.
    Our wet snow tends to push my grasses down, but I wonder if maybe I should try different cultivars? Perhaps your location of full sun and windy site strengthens them as they grow, so they are sturdier? With our wood edge grown up, we get less wind and sun than we used to. Though looking at other gardens in the area, few grasses stand up to the weather, alas!

    • I think you are right and our open position does play a role. Perhaps they grow more slowly which makes them a bit more resilient. The shorter Miscanthus are definitely the best at shrugging off the snow. (We had a very sudden thaw today so the snow has all but gone within 24 hours and floods are out in the valley!)

    • Thanks Gail. I will try some other Panicums in the future as so many people have good experiences, but the shorter Miscanthus definitely seem to cope best with our weather!

  6. Lovely to read about your wide range of grasses. I was surprised to see the pennisetum alopecuroides var. viridescens standing up to the weather so well, so I will be checking that one out. How tall does Miscanthus ‘Federweißer’ get? It looks statuesque and another one worth seeking out. As you can guess I love grasses too! I am after Panicum virgatum ‘Shenandoah’ and ‘Rehbruan’ this year, do you have either of these?

    • I think the M. Federweißer is about 180cm or taller. In any case taller than me. The shorter ones stand up better, but considering the heavy ice rain we had in December and now the snow I can’t complain! I love it because the colour is much more silbery than any others I have seen and it catches the light so beautifully. I have a Panicum ‘Cloud Nine’ and one labelled just as P. virgatum but I would like to try some others. Rehbraun must be wonderful in autumn. 😃 And Dallas Blues is another I woild like to try as it apparently stands up to winter a bit longer than mine.

  7. How old is your Pennisetum in the first photo? I like the way it makes a neat clump and has real presence. My pennisetums are smaller, but they are quite young. I love Miscanthus, you have a nice range of them. Mine is M. Sin. malpartus, a bit past his best now. This year I planted three of the bright yellow Japanese grasses, Hakonechloa ‘all gold’, they look terrible in winter but I love their colour in the growing season, and even better, they do well in part-shade.

    • Hi Sel. The Pennisetum was planted in October 2018 when this bed was first created. It was a very small plant in an 8cm pot so it got established really quickly. I love Hakonechloa too! I planted one in a pot so I could give it a bit of shade, but like you say they look awful in winter! I have also become a great fan of Carex. There are so many different ones. The only problem is, our visitng hares also like Carex…. 😮

  8. Cathy I love all your pastures in the snow. The ones that most catch my attention are the following. I love the big, strong and magnificent Pennisetum. Miscanthus Red Chief with the spikes with that bronze stain is wonderful, I love it. Miscanthus FederweiBer is divine, I love it. Erogrostis Tricodas is so fragile and charming, I love it. I love hare tracks, even if they are not grass! I don’t have any grass planted in my garden, but you are making me fond of them with your precious photos. If I can go to the country house this year, I will try to find one and plant it, to see how I can take care of it. Bundle up well and indoors warm. Take care. Happy weekend. Very affectionate greetings from Margarita 😘🤗⛄🧤🧣☕🐇🧊

    • Thank you Margarita! You stay warm too. Hope your snow has melted. Ours has almost gone within two days and there are floods everywhere. Thank goodness we live on a hill! 😃 Take care. 🤗

  9. You do have a lot of grasses Cathy that I never noticed when showing your beds in summer. I guess maybe they steal the show in winter when there is no competition. They are lovely in the snow and give such a pleasant view, sense of architecture, and movement to the winter garden. I can see why you love them.

    • I think the grasses do blend in in the summer and many only start to make an impact by August. My favourite season is autumn, so perhaps that is why I love them so much!

  10. Oh yes, I love grasses too😊 I just cut mine back before I left as new growth is already emerging. I find Panicum and Miscanthus cope well with drought in good soil. Best for poor, dry soil are Helictotrichon and Festuca. It‘s funny how some miscanthus stand upright and others not. I find they tend to sprawl even more when they‘re not in full sun. Your grasses look gorgeous how they peep out from under the snow. Wishing you a good start into the new week😘

    • I shall cut mine back too soon. The snow has mostly gone and it should dry up a bit at the end of the week. Can’t wait to get outdoors more! I am glad you mentioned Festuca as I had forgotten about them. I originally planned to use them and ended up getting some Carex instead, which I also love. Yes, I should try some Helichtotrichon too and see how they stand up to wind and our winters.

  11. Love all the grasses! I leave mine until late spring then give them a clipping like you I want more so I will divide some that could use it and then add them as privacy spots in the yard. Gardeners have so much fun! Have a great week!

  12. The ornamental grasses stand out beautifully against all that snow, Cathy. I love grasses too and grow a lot of them, as well as grass-like plants. I don’t have snow for them to play off of but I appreciate the movement and softness they add to my garden. My most dramatic ornamental grass is Pennisetum ‘Rubrum’. I grow others in that genus, as well as various Festuca, Seslaria caerulea and Stipa tenuissima. The latter is a bit of a weed here so I have to work to control it. In the grass-like category, my favorites are those in the Lomandra genus but those may not appreciate your colder, wetter conditions.

    • Festuca is one I will try soon, and Seslaria is a lovely grass too. So many pretty ones! I also have lots of Stipa tenuissima and it really does look wonderful when the wind blows, which is often! 😉 But it is a thug in my garden too! I give away seedlings, replant some, and gradually remove the older plants when they get too big. It works well. 😃

  13. They really do stand out in the snow, don’t they, especially in a clump? Mine still don’t make much of an impact, except for the amenanthele. Thanks for sharing the information on yours – really interesting to read Cathy

    • Ah yes, wind grass. They recommend protecting it from dry frosts here so I have never grown it, but Stipa tenuissima is perhaps the nearest and works well as it seeds itself so easily. I have cut all the Miscanthus down today… I hate doing it but so glad I did as there was already fresh green coming up after just a few milder days. Last year I left it a bit late, so better safe than sorry!

      • ‘Wind grass’? That is probably a good name for it – and it too seeds itself around. When we have some milder weather cutting back the few grasses I have must be on my job list too!

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