Ornamental grasses are the current darlings of the plant world for good reason....they solve many problems and look great while doing so. Grasses are so versatile - they're drought-tolerant, ideal for rain gardens, low-maintenance, season-extending, and lawn-replacing....when wisely chosen for your specific climate and conditions.
Or they can grow way too big, seed about, become noxiously invasive, and grow such a big, tough root ball as to be almost impossible to divide...I bet you, too, have had all these experiences with ornamental grasses.
I recently, and reluctantly, dug out a beautiful, gold-banded Miscanthus zebrinus (left) which was supposed to be a dwarf, but had already reached five feet high and half that wide in a couple of years.
The key, of course is to choose wisely, which can be tough when faced with all those tufty little grasses, looking so innocent and desirable in their nursery pots.
Before you shop, start with the Hoffman Nursery website where you can search for grasses by utility - here's the spot to distinguish which grasses work for rain gardens, banks and slopes, lawn alternatives, and those that are most drought tolerant.
Here are a few of Hoffman's grass suggestions for small gardens:
"Carex oshimensis ‘Evergold’ and Acorus gramineus
variegatus ‘Ogon’ with their dazzling yellow variegation are delightful low groundcovers. Do you want
creamy white and green? Acorus gramineus variegatus, variegated sweet flag, might be right for you.
Although not as rugged as other little grasses, Carex phyllocephala ‘Sparkler’ is a variegated sedge that
lives up to its name and will brighten your small garden. Unlike hostas, which fade away in the winter,
these three little grasses are evergreen which means
a pretty garden for you to enjoy all year long." The website also suggest the irresistibly named dwarf maiden grass Miscanthus sinensis 'Little Kitten' and the bottle-brush plumed miniature fountain grass Pennisetum alopecuroides 'Little Bunny' (left) - perfect to line a sunny walkway. This last one really does stay small.
Hoffman Nursery is a wholesaler in North Carolina, which means they raise grasses in a climate much warmer than our own. So be sure and take one more step - when you've selected grasses for specific conditions in your garden, go to our local Great Plant Picks to double check and make sure they'll thrive and actually flower in our climate...