Ornamental Grass with Perennial Partners
Plant ornamental grass with perennial partners to create a magical effect. One partner compliments the other so well!
The rise in popularity of gardening with ornamental grass shows no sign of abating!
Progressive garden designers have been incorporating ornamental grass into their plant pallet for decades. Now we’re increasingly seeing these beautiful perennial grasses being used by almost all gardeners.
They are of course a key ingredient in a more naturalistic style of garden design.
There’s much talk about the Piet Oudolf garden at the Hauser and Wirth Art Gallery near Bruton in Somerset.
Piet Oudolf is arguably the greatest proponent of this style. However there are other great designers who incorporate good ornamental grasses into their designs well.
On a short break to Cornwall I discovered a new medium sized garden. It had made excellent use of this combination. The garden had lovely ornamental grass but also hardy perennial plants that looked great with them!
This garden was only planted two years ago but already had an established feel to it.
Taming the Monbretia
My attention was drawn to the garden by that thug of the South West – the ‘Monbretia’!
This is an African perennial that has become a part of hedge banks of the South West of England and Ireland. It’s now known as Crocosmia and there are many good well-behaved garden hybrids.
Escaping- or being ‘liberated’ -into the wild in the early 1900 s, this plant has become a menace!
In fact, so successful has it become that it has been identified as one of several non-native plants listed under Schedule 9 to the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.
What’s more it is an offence to plant or “otherwise allow to grow” in the wild!
But here it was in all its orange glory looking great among feathery looking Fountain Grasses [Pennisetum] and Miscanthus grasses!
It transpires that this garden owner hadn’t intended this great combination but, as is so often the case, nature had her way!
The garden was created just two years ago with a sketch plan layout from a local designer.
The overall simple shape was created by a few hours spent on a mini digger.
The site is windy and exposed to the westerly gales and so ornamental grass is an inspired choice. With grass there is always movement and, since this is an upside down house with living quarters on top, the view from above was critical.
The whole of the front garden consists of heavily planted raised and organically shaped beds.
Winding between these bank-like beds are conventional tightly cut grasses. These are of course the lawn paths that meander between those borders.
Naturally, this garden looks great in late summer and autumn. But I’m told by its owner Caroline Courtenay-Taylor that it looks good in spring and early summer too.
In winter the grasses turn straw colour and are left until early spring when all is cut back to start the show again.
The Ornamental Grass Varieties
Pennisetum grass varieties, with their soft fluffy tail-like blooms are much used in this garden. When planted on top of these waist high banks they catch the light so well.
Miscanthus Morning Light is also a great grass widely planted here. This will certainly be an eye catcher in winter.
In more sheltered and lower spots I found the Japanese Blood Grass [Imperata cylindrica rubra] and the beautiful Autumn Moor Grass [Sesleria autumnalis].
Between the ornamental grass are many late flowering perennials and most were also great bee plants too!
Flat topped Hylotelephium (Sedum) spectabile were just beginning to turn pink. Rudbeckia deamii blooms were just opening and Helenium daisies just getting into their stride.
All these and others are great plants for butterflies too!
I was intrigued to see how well the ‘Pink’ – Dianthus carthusianorum – was looking. With tall stems and a very long flowering period, the grasses helped to support those thin stems. This is such an underused garden plant and one I’d recommend using with grasses. Even after blooming the seed heads are interesting!
I’d missed the globe shaped alliums that must have looked so good earlier in the summer.
Nevertheless that same globular flower shape was still there to be seen in the taller globe thistles of Echinops.
Gaps at the front of borders are filled with Geranium Rozanne, Patricia and [earlier] Johnsons Blue.
Ever opportunistic Mexican Fleabane (Erigeron karvinskianus) filled those gaps that the perennial Geraniums had not.
Yet to bloom were Michaelmas Daisies [Aster divaricatus and ‘Starshine’]. These are sure to blend in with the ornamental grass and give good autumn colour.
I’m sure that these will be joined by tall Japanese Anemone with their soft pink cups produced right into October.
At a lower level and near the edge I spotted the diminutive hardy herbaceous plumbago (Ceratostigma plumbaginoides).
This garden ably demonstrated how good ornamental grass can look with a late flowering perennials.
But this combination can also provide a garden that looks good throughout the year too!
An added bonus is that this style of garden is easy to manage making for low maintenance gardening.
It’s also very quick to produce superb results!
Last summer I wrote a blog on Late Flowering Garden Perennials and you may care to read it here.
I also wrote about how to get late summer colour in your garden here.
I hope that you too will now plant ornamental grass with perennial partners. Perhaps you already do!
If so I’d love to know which ornamental grass varieties and flowering perennials you plant together?