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Nowadays, more garden designers are incorporating landscaping with grasses into their schemes. The surge in the trend is no surprise; these architectural plants are wonderful at creating a visual statement. Plus, ornamental grasses have their practical merits, too.
With such a wide range of heights, colors, and textures available, there are plenty of ways grasses can be used in landscaping ideas – no matter the size of your plot. Whether you're looking to give a plain pathway a more magical feel, screen a seating space from view, or simply give your borders a boost, an ornamental grass or two can be a winning solution.
10 lovely looks for landscaping with grasses
We've brought together lots of landscaping inspiration using different types of ornamental grasses for you to recreate in your plot.
1. Create a natural screen for your seating space
One of the key benefits of ornamental grasses is their height. Because of this, they add instant vertical interest and can come in handy if you're on the lookout for subtle garden screening ideas.
For instance, this roof terrace uses tall, contemporary planters to line the perimeter of the space. Not only does it add a soothing shot of greenery to an urban plot, but it also ups the sense of privacy, obscuring neighboring windows from view.
It's the perfect backdrop for creating a tranquil slice of paradise in an inner-city garden. And, the soft rustle as they move in the breeze will only add to the sense of calm.
2. Add height and texture alongside paths
Garden path ideas are a must-have feature for most. Of course, they're practical – getting you from A to B – but they can also affect the overall experience of being in your plot. For example, winding pathways lined with tall, billowing grasses, like in this scheme above, will add a sense of intrigue and playfulness to the space.
We love how the variety of different heights and hues creates a breathtaking tapestry. And, of course, a look like this is great for encouraging wildlife to your garden, too.
3. Soften a modern scheme
Every patio needs some gorgeous paving ideas for a sturdy and beautiful base. But if you find your stretch of hard landscaping a little severe, an easy solution is to add soft grasses.
In this stunning scene, all different varieties are used to bring texture and cool, green tones to pared-back planters. Used on all sides, they cocoon the space, defining the perfect zone for entertaining. Opting for a chic gray color scheme for the furniture adds to the on-trend look.
4. Mix with blooms for prairie-style flowerbeds
Drought tolerant plants are becoming more popular in garden design for several reasons. First, they're easy to maintain – which is good news for those of us with busy lives. And second, they're a practical and sustainable approach in response to climate change. Plus, the prairie-style look that can be achieved is nothing short of stunning.
Landscaping with grasses is therefore a great way to bring this trend into your own plot, as most will thrive without much water. Interspersed with blooms such as echinacea and kniphofia, you can create a gorgeous border or flowerbed that is sure to capture your attention all through summer and late into fall.
5. Create a divide between zones
As well as creating taller screens for privacy, ornamental grasses can also be used for more subtle garden divider ideas.
Samuel Moore, director of garden and landscape design company Consilium Hortus (opens in new tab), explains how he used Pennisetum alopecuroides 'Hameln' – otherwise known as fountain grass – in this garden. A compact plant with brush-like flowers, here it creates an attractive divide between a lawn and an outdoor grill station, while maintaining an open and airy feel.
What's more, this type of grass tends to hold its form throughout winter. We love how it's been used alongside hydrangeas for an interesting, textural display.
6. Surround a pond with grasses for a natural feel
Whatever their size, garden ponds are a beautiful, sensory feature to bring into your scheme. Adding plenty of ornamental grasses around the edges will help them blend into their surroundings and create a more naturalistic vibe. Such planting will also provide a safe space for frogs, newts, and other visiting wildlife.
If you have the space, adding a bridge, boulders, and even a waterfall will all add to the enchanting atmosphere – a great way to recreate a relaxing woodland setting right in your own backyard.
Adding a destination point, such as this gazebo, is also a lovely finishing touch for sitting and admiring the view.
7. Opt for the unusual with black grasses
Black mondo grass, also known as Ophiopogon planiscapus, is ideal for modern garden schemes due to its striking appearance.
Use it to line patios or pathways, as seen here, for a unique look. Keep the surrounding color scheme dark and moody, or opt for brights that will pop against the deep hue. And, as this plant is evergreen, it'll hold your interest all through the colder months, too.
8. Elevate a gravel garden
Gravel garden ideas and landscaping with grasses are perfect partners in backyard design.
We're head-over-heels with this look. Note how a palette of purple tones has been used for a sense of harmony, while the odd splash of yellow – purple's complementary hue – keeps it feeling fresh and balanced.
We also like the organic form of planting, which loosely defines a path and seating area, creating a relaxed and immersive vibe. Spot the rosemary too, which will add a delicious fragrance to the scene.
9. Introduce different heights for different purposes
Grasses are so versatile that they can be used in different ways in the same plot. For instance, compact, tuft-like varieties are used as garden edging ideas in this space – defining the boundary of a paved zone from a modern water feature. Planting them spaciously in this way highlights their form and the cheery golden hue against the surrounding stone.
Beyond, a taller type of grass has been used to surround a sheltered space, drawing the eye upwards and making a more distinct feature of the pergola.
10. Create a contrast against hard landscaping features
We spotted this show garden at Chelsea Flower Show (opens in new tab) and we absolutely adore it.
Wispy, elegant grasses have been added to the perennial bed, which instantly elevates it and offers a wilder feel. But we particularly love the contrast it provides against the smart built-in bench nearby – it's the perfect balancer against such sleek and modern hardscaping.
You can find more gorgeous outdoor seating ideas in our guide.
Why should you use ornamental grasses in your landscaping?
'I love to use grasses in my designs because of the way they add texture and form to planting schemes,' says Samuel Moore of Consilium Hortus. 'I use them in almost every scheme we design. They also add invaluable winter interest when other planting may be less interesting.'
His favorite grasses to use are Pennisetum alopecuroides 'Hameln', the feathery Stipa tenuissima, and Sesleria autumnalis – a bright green variety that looks excellent planted en masse.
As shown in the looks above, landscaping with grasses can also be done to define zones, or elevate existing features such as paths. You can add them to planters, too. And the best part is, learning how to grow ornamental grasses is incredibly simple: most are very low maintenance, needing little water, pruning, or feeding.
How do you group ornamental grasses in your landscaping?
If you're looking to use more than one variety of grass in your backyard, it's important to group them together depending on their growing needs. For instance, Japanese forest grass and sedge plants both do well in dappled shade and moist soil types, while most stipa and miscanthus grasses like full sun.
Think about how the grasses will look when planted together too, by considering colors, heights, and textures. Opting for a varied mix will create a more dramatic impact. And, remember to plant taller varieties towards the back of borders so that you can appreciate the smaller types fully.
The garden was always a big part of Holly's life growing up, as was the surrounding New Forest where she lived. Her appreciation for the great outdoors has only grown since then. She's been an allotment keeper, a professional gardener, and a botanical illustrator – plants are her passion.