Photo/Illustration: Saxton Holt
That you cannot open any architecture or gardening magazine without seeing ornamental or native grasses prominently featured is a testament to just how far these versatile plants have come. Just a handful of varieties were available when the perennial boom of the late 1980s and ’90s exploded onto the American gardening scene. Now a dizzying array of grasses is available to gardeners throughout the country.
A number of reasons explain the increased popularity of ornamental grasses: low maintenance, adaptability, and good looks, to name just a few. But the range of grasses often recommended has inexplicably remained quite narrow. Many more options exist beyond miscanthus (Miscanthus spp. and cvs., USDA Hardiness Zones 4–9), ‘Karl Foerster’ feather reed grass (Calamagrostis 2 acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’, Zones 5–9), and blue fescue (Festuca glauca and cvs., Zones 4–8). Here is a list of grasses that deserve wider use in America’s gardens. While some are new to the nursery trade, others either have been overlooked or were just plain hard to find in prices, sizes, and quantities that suited their use. Some may still require a bit of hunting to track them down, but the search will be worth it.