Grasses are the most successful and widespread plants in nature; they present unlimited possibilities for our gardens and landscapes. There are grasses and grass-like plants of all sizes, for every climate, exposure, soil condition and design concept, and the right grass in the right place often provides year-around beauty, with very little trouble.

Selection: Over 60 varieties of grasses, plus sedges, rushes, mondo grass, bamboos and other grass-like plants are available at Phoenix Flower Farm. The smallest is less than 8 inches tall; the largest over 16 feet at maturity. Most are offered in 1-gallon pots, with other sizes if appropriate.

Value: Folks just learning about ornamental grasses are able to compare the many varieties in our Grass Garden and as specimens in our mixed gardens. We can show you young plants and plants that have been in the ground for 2, 5 or 10 years, for comparison purposes. We also demonstrate how to plant, when and how to divide, and can suggest grasses to solve specific design problems, i.e. privacy on your deck, or groundcover in a shady yard.

More About Ornamental Grasses: A useful distinction is between warm-season and cool-season grasses and this is noted in our catalog. Cool season grasses, hair grass (Deschampsia), foxtail grass (Alopecurus) and feather reed grass (Calamagrostis), for example, begin to grow early in the season—like lawn grass—and provide early interest. Feather reed grass was a Perennial Plant of the Year and is beautiful for four seasons. Some cool season grasses look ratty or go dormant in hot sun. However, these are good candidates for light shade where they hold their color better.

Grasses originated on open plains and prairies, and most of the warm season grasses prefer sun and tolerate very dry conditions when established. Major families are Japanese silver grass or maiden grass (Miscanthus species), fountain grass (Pennisetum), and switch grass (Panicum). and Fountain grass is approximately 2 feet high, but the others range from 4 to 12 feet. They start growing in late Spring, and begin flowering (yes, those tassels are flowers!) in August. They are absolutely glorious in the Fall, and on into Winter.

We recommend 1-gallon pots of grasses, rather than 3 or 5 gallon pots. This is because grasses grow quickly, and do have to be divided eventually. Planting three 1-gallon pots of silver grass in a group will give you a clump effect within a year, just as planting a 5-gallon container will, BUT you will not have to divide your magnificant clump for 5 or 6 years, rather than 3. Warm season grasses should only be divided in the Spring, before rapid growth begins. People often ask us when to cut grasses back. We usually do that in early Spring, also. A one-page care sheet is available at the Farm on request.

Don’t forget to look at sedges (Carex) and wood rush (Luzula) for your shade garden. They provide texture contrasts and will serve as ground covers as well. If you have a pond or just a wet spot, sedges will be valuable there, and so will rushes (Scirpus), sweet flag (Acorus) reeds (Arundo) and even cattail (Typha), used with caution. P.S. Did you know that cattail is a most useful plant in our environment? A cattail swamp is a natural filter, purifying the water that flows through it.