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Garden Photo of the Day

A Garden of Grasses

We all love their texture, so it’s amazing when a border is built almost entirely out of them

If someone told you they were going to create a garden almost entirely out of ornamental grasses you might think, “How boring!” But when you look at this garden designed by Barbara Weirich in Benton Harbor, Michigan you quickly realize that you would be wrong. With strategically placed garden art and a few bold-leaved companions this small patch is able to look good from mid-spring all the way through the epics snowfalls experienced in this lakeside location.

Grasses are revered for their diaphanous nature, but that can create problems if you’re trying to create separation in a bed. Here, custom-made privacy screens help divide the grass garden from the woods behind—and they provide some much needed structure, too.

The occasional bold-leaved plant does show up in this grassy bed for textural and color contrast. Here, purple-leaf sand cherry (Prunus x cistena, Zones 2-8) and an ornamental St. John’s wort (Hypericum cv., Zones 6-9) do the trick.

A fallen tree branch works as garden art and adds a focal point to this area while the black plumes of ‘Moudry’ fountain grass (Pennisetum alopecuroides 'Moudry', Zones 5-9) and the burgundy-tinged inflorescences of ‘Morning Light’ maiden grass (Miscanthus sinensis 'Morning Light') are just starting to color up in midfall.

It’s hard to miss the maroon colored foliage of red leaf hibiscus (Hibiscus acetosella, Zones 7-11) among the sea of green and tawny hued grass blades. 'Shenandoah' switch grass (Panicum virgatum 'Shenandoah', Zones 5-9) does an admirable job, however, echoing the reddish color of the hibiscus.

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View Comments


  1. Jay_Sifford 12/20/2017

    This is a fascinating study in texture and shape. I'm sure this is stunning, even in the snow. The fallen branch works so well, and the very vertical fence juxtaposes really nicely. I'd love to see this in person. Thanks for sharing!

  2. User avater
    treasuresmom 12/20/2017

    The older I get, I am having to replace low growing perennials with shrubs & grasses. Just too difficult to get on the ground anymore. Love how those grasses look.

  3. tennisluv 12/20/2017

    I agree with Jay that this is a fascinating study in texture and shape. The interjection of color, both strong (maroon reds of the red-leaf hibiscus and purple-leafed sand cherry) and soft (grey/brown of the privacy fence and driftwood) among the greens, tans and purples of the grasses only adds to the effect. Thanks to postings like this one, I am now beginning to introduce grasses into my landscape. To see this one in person, would be a treat and a learning experience.

  4. User avater
    meander1 (Michaele ) 12/20/2017

    I would imagine that this is a very soothing garden to see in person because the colors blend so beautifully and, most often, the movement of the grasses would be gentle and lulling...almost hypnotic...in the best possible way. On those occasions when Mother Nature whips up a good wind and the grasses wave about more energetically, there is usually still harmony in the back and forth. The inclusion of that sensuously shaped piece of driftwood is pure inspiration...love it!

    Right now, it is a rainy windy day and as I sit at the kitchen table and look out my window, my eyes are constantly drawn to a now buff colored good sized clump of muhly grass and its movement is infinitely pleasing. For some reason, my panicums and miscanthus are still but the muhly is in full dance mode.

  5. Beezos 12/20/2017

    Love ornamental grasses! Beautiful serene garden nice job.

  6. User avater
    Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 12/20/2017

    Well played. In my mind, this should be an overwhelming, monotonous texture, but between the hardscaping, well-placed foils and great diversity, it is beautiful. I bet it is hypnotic in the soft breeze of a summer evening.

  7. user-6536305 12/20/2017

    Very beautiful grass garden. Love the falling tree sculpture. Thanks for sharing.

  8. Cheryl A 12/20/2017

    I love these pictures and this garden. I've come back a second time to look at these pictures, and they are even more awesome the second time through as I see the complexity of the textures and contrasts with the hardscaping. How does one begin to figure out placement of these beautiful plants, each one highlighting synchronies and differences with their neighbors. If I tried, it would just look like a hot mess! I'm glad there are those who know how to do it right - perhaps we can just learn by looking at more of these. Thanks so much for posting.

  9. Foxglove12 12/20/2017

    Your grasses are heavenly! I can just imagine the breeze wafting through. Loving those screens as well. Beautiful!

  10. BTucker9675 12/20/2017


  11. PerenniallyCrazy 12/21/2017

    I love each and every vignette featured in Barbara's design. It's a perfect garden in every way.

  12. greengenes 12/21/2017

    Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful!

  13. susan749 12/22/2017

    This is truly beautiful!

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