GARDENING: Give your garden a heart of grass

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I’VE grown to love grasses. Like many children of the ’70s, I hated the ubiquitous pampas grass stuck alone in the middle of a lawn, blown to bits by the wind.

With the influence of designer Piet Oudolf’s prairie planting, grasses once again became THE plants to have during the last decade. Trouble was, you needed a prairie-sized garden to get the full impact.

Like all good things, there’s a middle way. You can easily introduce the odd tall grass, like Stipa gigantea for vertical interest and movement.

I find the small evergreen grasses (40-60cm) most useful in winter. My two favourites are blue fescue grass (Festuca glauca) and variegated sedge (Carex oshimensis Evergold).

There are other sedges dotted around the borders – a bronze variety and a group of Carex Frosted Curls, which are silvery green and really catch the breeze. Another useful variety, taller at about 1m, is variegated ribbon grass (Phalaris arundinacea Picta) – however, it spreads quickly and can be invasive.

It will thrive in just about every garden situation. Mine’s planted in shade, where it spreads a lot more slowly. It really brightens up a dark corner – it’s planted in front of a holly.

Miscanthus sinensis Zebrinus, or the zebra grass, takes its name from the horizontal cream bands on the 

Striking, silky, finger-like flowers bloom in late summer, and stay on during winter. it grows to about 1.25m.

My newest aquisition is a tall variety (2m), Miscanthus sinensis Kleine Fontäne, with narrow, silvery leaves with a white stripe.

It flowers right into autumn, when its new, reddish-brown, tassel-like flowers are a pretty foil for the faded, silvery older ones. Excellent for winter structure.