Summer Grasses

When planning my flower beds in this garden I wanted grasses. Lots of them. Ones that would sway in the wind, that would remain standing until late winter, that would provide cover for birds etc, and for the long flower bed I call The ‘Edge I wanted grasses that would grow tall enough to create the effect of a semi-hedge.  Miscanthus were of course on the list, but they take so long to reach any noticeable height and do not start flowering until August.

One that I chose for early flowering is Blue Oats Grass (Helictotrichon sempervivens ‘Saphirsprudel’). By mid-May it was about 60 cm tall and in flower. And here it is May 23rd…

… And at its full height (about 1.3m) June 1st…

Another early flowering grass is Stipa gigantea. Such a beautiful grass! It grew at roughly the same pace as the Oats Grass (but is somewhat taller at about 2 metres) and catches the light so well. Early evening light especially. 😃

In the Moon Bed I have Stipa capillata, which hasn’t made much impact yet but starts flowering in early June…

And this grass, Deschampsia cespitosa ‘Schottland’, which I think will have to be moved, as it has formed a very large clump already. It also started flowering at the end of May…

In various flower beds I have Stipa tenuissima, best planted in a windy position. (Which means almost every space in my garden! ) It is such a graceful grass.

It looks a bit drab until May, when it starts to produce fresh green, and the lovely seeds.

Another relatively early flowering grass is Calamagrostis. In my Butterfly Bed it is already taller than me. In more exposed beds it is only just starting to flower. This remains upright until mid winter, and provides some warm golden highlights in autumn.

And this year I have some small Briza.

Not sure if they are perennial, but hope they will seed around anyway. Probably the prettiest seedhead, but so hard to photograph!

Do you grow an ornamental grass that fills out early on in the year? Do share!

Thanks for reading, and happy gardening!

24 thoughts on “Summer Grasses

  1. I love grasses. Yours are beautiful Cathy and give such a feeling of movement and elegance. I have most of the ones you mention apart from deschampsia. I really must add one to my collection. Another one that was already on my list is helichtrotrichton but the ones I recently saw in a friend’s garden were not as tall as yours. Perhaps there are several varieties. Apparently they love dry soil so ideal for my garden. My briza never self-seeded but I do have setaria caramel that self-seed and come back faithfully every year. Last year I planted 3 Poa Labillardeiri as they also love dry soil but I don’t think I’ve planted them in the right places as they’re a bit underwhelming where they are at the moment. Will have to do something about that ! I show some of my grasses in my latest blog post.

    • Hi Judith. I think the deschampia needs a lot of space as mine has grown so much within a year! I have only ever seen Helictotrichon ‘Saphirsprudel’ here, and it wasn’t actually supposed to get that tall. Maybe the open position helped. I like it for its early flowers but low leaves and have planted a Panicum ‘Northwind’ right behind it to take over once the flowers droop. 😃 I have not heard of Setaria or Poa labillardeiri and will have to look out for them. I’m coming over for a visit to your blog now. So nice to find someone who shares my passion for grasses Judith! 🤗

  2. There are only a few grasses in our landscapes. Because of the climate and the dryness of the wild landscape beyond, some grasses seem to be weedy, as if they just moved into the landscape from the surrounding forest. The blue festuca does not look wild like that, but to the contrary, it looks a bit too refined or synthetic. We sometimes joke about pampas grass, because if it were not such an unappealing weed, we would like to grow it somewhere.

    • Oh yes, pampas grass looks all wrong here too. Although I used to know a garden planted with only lawn, weeping willows and one large pampas grass with very pale silvey flowers. Right plant right place! 😉

      • It is not the appearance that I dislike. It is the reputation as one of the most invasive weed in California. Cortaderia jubata was imported a long time ago, and naturalized in many regions, particularly on the coast. It is wicked to remove! Cortaderia selloana is much more docile. Garden varieties of it are supposedly sterile. (Although, they are only sterile because they are exclusively female. They can hybridize with Cortaderia jubata. Their progeny are not sterile.) I would consider adding it to my home garden, but only because it is unlikely to spread into the surrounding redwood forest.

  3. Your grasses look splendid, and I can see that you have plenty of room for them. They achieve a gorgeous appearance when the sun shines on them.

  4. Your garden is looking beautiful, Cathy! Having eliminated all our lawn years ago, I grow a good number of ornamental grasses, including Stipa tenuissima. It’s exceptionally graceful but unfortunately also invasive in my climate so I “groom” it regularly (but still find myself pulling seedlings all over the place). I’ve used Festuca californica in other cases, which though not quite as striking is more manageable. I also use a lot of grass-like materials, like Lomandra ‘Breeze’ and Lomandra ‘Platinum Beauty’, both of which are evergreen here.

    • I have seedlings of Stipa tenuissima everywhere too! It looks a bit brown over winter, but then I pull any old ones out in spring or pull out dead bits and let the seedlings take their place. I looked up the other grasses you mention and they look very pretty as well. 😃

  5. You did such a beautiful job in planning your gardens to include the grass. It looks so natural, and is but I am pretty sure you planned the placement carefully. Grass can be hard to manage. You’ve done a great job! 🙂

  6. It’s so nice to get a bigger view of your garden, Cathy, the beds have come on so well. You must be so pleased. Your grasses look all fabulous. How old is the Stipa tenuissima? I find that here they need replacing as they start looking drab after a few years. But they do seed about which is nice. I’m very fond of our Miscanthus and they’re huge by now but there are some good Panicum and Molinia which lend themselves for hedges. Pity the latter fall apart after the first frost. I hope you get the chance to relax in that beautiful lounger of yours to appreciate the result of all your hard work. 🙂

    • Hi Annette. My Stipa also only looks good for a couple of years, but I pull out old ones in the spring and plant the seedlings in their place. Molinia is a good idea – not sure why I don’t have any! I planted a Panicum Northwind last year as my other Panicum ‘Cloud Nine’ is a bit boring in autumn. That lounger is calling to me Annette, but so is the rhubarb/pumpkin patch that needs weeding! 😉 Have a lovely Sunday! 🤗

  7. Your grasses are all so beautiful together and because you have such wide open spaces, they make a stunning display. How peaceful and relaxing it must be to watch them flowing in the wind.
    My yard is so confined, I don’t think it does justice to the elements that grasses provide, so I only have one and it is in a large planter. It is lovely in the fall and I’m always glad that I have at least this one. What a treat and luxury to have a whole row of them to dazzle you with their movement.

    • I am lucky to have the space and enjoy them immensely, especially in the autumn. We get plenty of wind up on our hill, but many of them stand up to it till late winter before they finally collapse!

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