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Ornamental Grasses

Written By Shauna Lambeth 27 Jun 2024
Ornamental Grasses

Ornamental Grasses bring a coastal look, that suits Vancouver Island and adds the dimensions of movement and sound to your garden. They can be combined with perennials, roses, berried plants, heather, succulents and/or evergreen shrubs to create a stunning display. If you are the kind of gardener who likes the visual appeal of textures, you are going to love gardening with Ornamental Grasses!

Here are a few of our favourites:

Calamagrostis x acutiflora (Feather Reed Grass)

A very upright grass that grows about 4-5' tall. It's an early bloomer beginning in June and flower plumes are slim emerging white and aging to pinkish-tan. It stands up straight in my garden even through the windy days. It makes an excellent verticle accent and is often repeated down a driveway or similar planting.
  • Zone 4
  • Plant in part to full sun

Carex buchananii (Sedge)

A wonderful grass that is copper-coloured year round. It grows to 18" in height with a tufted, arching habit. It looks wonderful all year long but is spectacular with the fall and winter tones in the garden. When it's backed with evergreen plants it is extremely effective as the coppery colour is shown off to the maximum. I must confess though when Nigel first wanted to add this plant to our garden I was less than impressed with the brown colour I first saw, now I see copper!

  • Zone 6
  • Plant in full sun or shade

Chasmanthium latifolium (Northern Sea Oat Grass)

What a find this grass is! It is reminiscent of dwarf bamboo, growing to 3' in height, with the most interesting dangling flowers that look somewhat like shimmering schools of fish.

  • Zone 5
  • Plant in sun or shade

Cortaderia sellonana (Pampas Grass)

Probably the best-known of all the ornamental grasses, Pampas Grass has the largest, showiest flowers in shades of white or pink. We stock full-size pampas grass as well as dwarf varieties, pink and white. Pampas Grass is hardy for Campbell River, however, it should be planted in the Spring or Summer so that the roots have a chance to grow before winter. We find that plants, planted in the fall or winter do not winter as well as those planted in Spring or Summer. So if you are planting Pampas Grass this year - do it soon :)

  • Zone 7
  • Plant in Full Sun

Festuca glauca (Blue Fescue)

This small evergreen grass boasts intense powder blue foliage and a tidy, compact, mounding form. It grows to a little over 1’ tall and can make a lovely edging plant.

  • Zone 4.
  • Plant in Full Sun

Hakonechloa macra (Japanese Forest Grass)

This exquisite grass may have the most wonderful form of all the ornamental grasses! Over the years I have seen many stunning specimens usually the golden variegated variety Hakonechloa macra 'Aureola'. The foliage is bamboo-shaped and comes from a centre stem and cascades. In the garden, it forms low mounds about a foot tall and is often used as an edging plant in multiples of perhaps 3 to 5 accentuating a curve. It's one classy grass!

  • Zone 4.
  • Plant in good, moist soil in the shade.

Helictotrichon sempervirens (Blue Oat Grass)

The lovely blue foliage clumps of Blue Oat Grass grow to around 2' tall with the flowers topping out at about 3'. Blue foliage grass, Blue Oat Grass and Blue Fescues combine beautifully with pink, mauve and peach flowers (daisies, roses or lavender) for the gardener who likes those soft combinations.

  • Zone 4.
  • Plant in Sun.

Miscanthus sinensis
(Maiden Grass, Chinese silver grass, Japanese silver grass, Flame Grass)

There are simply so many lovely varieties of Miscanthus and we have them all laid out so you can see their differences. They all have a wonderful arching shape that is very appealing. They make excellent container plants especially if you need a verticle accent or screen for privacy. Some have variegated leaves, different coloured flowers and a variety of widths of blades. We stock varieties that grow from 3' to over 6' tall.

  • Plant in full or part sun.
  • Zone 5

Nassella tenuissiuma - formerly Stipa tenuissimas (Mexican Feather Grass)

The wispy fine soft green foliage topped with blond plumes of Mexcian Feather Grass is always gently moving. She combines beautifully with pinky-purple Echinacea flowers (coneflowers) and pink snowberry (as pictured). There really isn't another grass that's movement is so captivating. It grows in small clumps 18-24" tall and 2' tall. Sometimes it self-seeds but it is easy to pull and therefore easy to control in our climate.

  • Plant in full sun or part sun
  • Zone 6

Schizachyrium scoparium (Little Blue Stem Grass)

What makes this grass special is the fabulous fall colour of reds and purples. The entire plant lights up! It grows 2-4' tall and strongly upright. It is easy to grow in difficult locations with poor, dry soil. Often mass-planted for a dramatic effect. 

  • Plant in Sun
  • Zone 3

Pennisetum setaceum 'Rubrum' (Purple Fountain Grass)

OK, the first thing you need to know is that this grass is not winter hardy in Campbell River (Zone 9 we are Zone 7) however, it is gorgeous and dramatic! Choose it like you choose a geranium (PSA lol!). Lovely rosy plumes sit airy above deep plum foliage making for an incredibly beautiful summer and fall display. The plum colour also combines well with so many colours of flowers, especially pinks, lavenders, corals and white. It looks great on its own or in a mixed planting. I add Purple Fountain Grass to almost all my large containers as I can't get enough of them. Leave them in your planters or garden in the winter both the frost and snow will only add to their beauty. Birds too will enjoy Purple Fountain Grass as they use these types of soft fluffy seed heads for nesting. Plant in full sun in average to moist soil perhaps in a container so that you can try overwintering it in a greenhouse or shed. *This grass is not winter hardy in Campbell River

  • Plant as an annual in Sun
  • Zone 9 (*Campbell River is Zone 7)

Shauna Lambeth ©

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