The most significant change in gardening in the last few years has been the renewed interest in hardy herbaceous perennials. These dependable plants that we are rediscovering, were well known to previous generations of gardeners. Only ornamental grasses are entirely new. Garden centres previously offered only a few grasses, such as Blue Fescue and Tuberous Oat Grass or non-hardy varieties of Fountain Grass for summer planting. The selection available today can provide hardy grasses for almost every garden purpose.
Small clump forming grasses and grass-like plants such as sedges make excellent rock garden plants or can be mass-planted as attractive groundcovers. They are good companions to spring-flowering bulbs or as border edging.
Those ornamental grasses that are 45 to 100 cm tall can make nice focal points in either perennial borders or annual bedding schemes. Varieties of Fountain Grass make a nice alternative to the usual Draceana to add height and interest in such settings. Their use in planters and tubs is more frequently seen on porches and patios.
The most famous of the tall grasses is the Pampas Grass (Cordateria), unfortunately not hardy in Ontario. For the same spectacular effect, we use Miscanthus varieties or Plume Grass (Erianthus ravennae) whose flower heads can reach 12 to 15 feet tall.
Grasses can make attractive lawn ornaments and this is the simplest way in which to first use these low-maintenance perennials. A circular bed of generous proportions planted with only one type of ornamental grass will make a splendid showpiece. This is also a way to use those grasses with a spreading habit that precludes their use with other plants. By giving them their own space we can take advantage of their vigor with very satisfying results.