Grasses new and old

Austrostipa elegantissima

Austrostipa ramosissima

I’m an aficionado of grasses, I championed them thirty years ago at my nursery in Sydney and have been a fan of them ever since and as with the last post I wrote on lilies I buy new ones and experiment every time I see one I don’t have. Some grasses have been wonderful surprises and others dismal failures and this is why I trial them before incorporating them into my designs. I have a theory that if a plant grows without any love and attention it could quite possibly be an ugly thug, and a garden by its definition requires a degree of nurturing, and along this thought track a garden plants need to be nursed along to a degree or the plants are quite possibly weedy. Grasses especially fall into this category; if they perform best in reasonably well mulched and cared for soil and need the occasional a splash of water to look at their best they wont become a bushland pest where the growing conditions are often dry and inhospitable. I grow a lot of plants in my garden and every now and then because of lack of space I rip things out of the garden and start afresh but I like to think it’s a bit of a Noah’s ark too – a place where plants once popular, and now no longer fashionable can find a home and be resurrected in new planting schemes – and so it is with two Australian native grasses being Austrostipa ramosissima and Austrostipa verticillata. Both of these I grew thirty years ago, got sick of and they’ve come full circle and I’m captivated by their featheriness and ease of cultivation. I’ve paired the former with tall growing dahlias and the latter by the swimming pool where I can watch them bend and sway to the whim of the winds.

Grasses are fast growing and very easily grown but without any maintenance they can look a bit average within a few years so I slice them down totally – and I mean right to ground level every few years and this keeps them looking fresh.


Two grasses that I’ve trialed a for a few years now are Sporobolus airioides and Pennisetum Red Buttons. The Sporobolus is coming into its own mid summer and Red Buttons is the first to flower in early spring.

Sporobolus airiodes


Pennisetum Red-Buttons