Garden ideas: how to combine ornamental grasses

Blue Oat Grass (Helictotrichon sempervirens) and Black Mondo Grass (Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’

Blue Oat Grass and Bronze Carex (Carex testacea)

Blue Oat Grass, Bronze Carex, and Blue Moor Grass (Sesleria caerulea). I photographed this front  yard garden from the side to show how the grasses  are planted in undulating drifts. The two sides are actually separated by a front walkway.


Why grow grasses? They give you a casual, modern beauty. They are hardy, easy to care for, and there are tons of varieties that all look great together and mix easily with other plants.  They rustle and sway in the wind. Many (like Stipa gigantea) give you dramatic seed heads that arch high above the clumps.

Choose two or three ornamental grass varieties  that offer some contrast  between size, color, and texture. Plant them in drifts, instead of mixing or alternating them. The grasses used in this garden are evergreen and don’t need to be cut back. Just clean them up once in a while and replace them when they  every few years. Black wood mulch was used throughout the entire garden to unify things and to make the plantings really pop. (‘Modern Inspiration’ garden from the Gamble Garden Tour)

Plant pairing: kangaroo paw and blue oat grass

kangaroo paw and blue oat grasskangaroo paw and blue oat grass

Blue Oat Grass (Helictotrichon sempervirens) and Kangaroo Paw (Anigozanthos).  The silver blue of the grass really sets off the orange: exponentially more striking than Kangaroo Paw on its own. Kangaroo Paw likes sun, heat, and drainage. If you’ve got clay, you’ll probably need to amend your soil. It’s supposedly a perennial but mine never make it through our wet bay area winters so I think of it as an annual. A beautiful, irresistible, expensive annual. At least the Blue Oat Grass is easy.