This is the journal of my endeavours to grow a range of fruit, veg and flowers from seed, grow organically, and my attempts to create a personal paradise with 1/2 acre of maintained gardens and 1/2 acre wild meadows. Northern Ireland's average daily high temperatures are 18 °C (64 °F) in July and 6 °C (43 °F) in January. Soil type: Clay

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Ornamental Grasses - love'em or hate'em

Carex Bronze Buchananii, Black Mondo, Sea Thrift.
Who likes ornamental grasses? I'm not too sure about them. They became popular a number of years ago and I assume they still are fairly popular going from the displays in garden centres. I've ended up with ornamental grasses in two ways:

1. random purchases
2. plant divisions from others

I'm guilty of planting grasses quite randomly, and they happen to love a dry area in the garden and they're multiplying like crazy (as you will see in the photo comparison below).
Above: Photo taken 18 months ago (after my cordyline palm had died).
Below: photo of the same area, taken this month.
The photos aren't taken from the exact angle but you can see how the grasses and other plants have spread across the area. The crocosmia (orange flowers) looks quite grass-like too. The ferns have appeared on their own; they enjoy the damp edges of this area.
Apparently evergreen grasses need 'combed' with your fingers (like the one pictured above) so the old grass blades come out and the plant looks pretty again (like its gone to the hairdressers).
Below: a plant with old blades removed.
Above: Black mondo (Ophiopogon planiscapus Nigrascens) is evergreen and multiplies like crazy in a dry area of the garden. Mixed with a variegated annual grass (name unknown) which also multiplies like crazy and is on my black list to only grow in pots in future. Both of these grasses are trouble in terms of stopping them!
Above: A non-grass plant, however, Kaffir Lily looks very grassy. Its an Autumn flowering perennial bulb.
More grasses. The gold grass dotted around is Carex Buchananii - it makes about 30 baby plants each year. The dogwood with the red leaves looks good this time of year. This was a piece I pulled away from the main dogwood shrub and stuck in the ground last year and it has rooted well.

Copyright: All words and photos are property of Kelli's Northern Ireland Garden.


  1. Must admit I'm not a grass fan - but I do like plants that aren't grasses but look like them like the Ophiopogon, Kaffir Lily and Crocosmia.

    The bed round the dead cordyline is beautiful. Cordylines did suffer badly in the very bad winter a couple of years ago apparently there was a disease around at the same time that didn't help.

  2. I'm not particularly a lover of grasses, but I can see what they bring to a display. That Carex is definitely good value for money if it makes so many new plants each year. You should never be without.

  3. Well, grasses are not my favourites, but your garden looks nice with them. As a matter of fact, it is too wet in my garden, I still have one nice Miscanthus, the rest died. Your Kaffir Lily is beautiful but is not hardy over here. I have lots of Crocosmias and they survive outside, but for sure I always take somes bulbs inside when winter falls. So sorry of your Cordyline, it was a big one. I had one much smaller in the greenhouse for years, but last February she did not survive.

  4. Joining the theme that others have started... I'm also not particularly fond of grasses. I have tried one or two in my garden (e.g. Zebra grass) but they didn't do well. I like Dogwood though!

  5. Well, I think I am a grass fan! At least, looking at your garden, I find it very attractive and interesting and it seems you have a lot of color in the grasses as well as in flowers. In fact, just today I was admiring a beautiful grass border at a local bank and it had a wispy looking top notch of pink grass blades coming out of a deep green bottom part. Does that make sense? Anyway, it was an unusual grass and really caught my eye. I think your ferns look great with the grasses, too, and the dogwood is gorgeous.

  6. I like grasses; I just cannot find pretty ones as you have and they do require more work than one would thing, or like. They add a lot of interest and texture.

  7. Oh I don't have places for grasses yet. looking at yours thinking of getting some kaffir lily bulbs.

  8. Count me as loving them. I don't have many, but I plan to right that wrong. Hubby thinks they are too weedy, but he trusts me. I had to laugh at your saying that black mondo grass went out of control. I had the tiniest bit for years, it just wouldn't grow, and finally disappeared.

  9. Interesting comments about grasses (and grassy looking plants). I should have said that the main area where I have grassy plants has good drainage as there is weed control membrane down with bark on top. The bark has broken down over the years with fresh put on top. It seems the grassy type plants like the dry conditions i.e. on top of the weed membrane and self seed quite freely. The sides of the area are damp clay, hence the ferns and astilbe seem to like it. I think crocosmia will grow most anywhere.

  10. I cannot believe that "that" is the same area!! It is like a forest. I really like the look of that Kaffir lily. I will definitely have to look into that and grasses for the new front landscape.

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