My First Ornamental Grass Garden

charle7(9)April 15, 2011

I am in central FLorida and have a few small grasses in containers around my ponds but I am wanting to start a large garden in my front yard. I have a pretty big area - kidney shaped - with a little shade but mostly sunny. I am thinking of putting tall grasses in the back (to hide my fence) and coming forward with shorter grasses ending with a very short grass across the front. Then I don't know if I should just mingle and mix all different grasses together or keep each type of grass in their own little section. Color - should I mix colors or keep with similar colors. I want more of an informal look. Also when checking locally I can't seem to find anything except the red or white fountain grasses, and they seem so ordinary. However if ordering online I would have to get much smaller plants because of the cost of such a large order due to the size of space I have to fill. So, suggestions please as to how to begin. Sorry for the long post.

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The first thing I would do is hit either the bookstore or the library and pick up a copy of The Encyclopedia of Grasses for Livable Landscapes by Rick Darke.

It's chock full of great examples of how to use grasses in your garden, and will give you an idea of how different approaches look in actual practice.

Next, plan in some hardscape features to plant the grasses around. Boulders, fountains, etc..there are lots of options.

Plan your garden around water and sun needs. Group plants with common care needs first, and then consider appearance.

It's hard to believe central Florida nurseries only carry fountain grasses, so look around some more for good local sources.

One of the best online sources is Santa Rosa Gardens (linked below), and they are Gulf Breeze up on the Panhandle. They have a great selection, and shipping is free on $100 orders. I buy quite a few grasses from them, and their service is exceptional.

Research research research. Although grasses are extremely portable, it's much nicer to get it right the first time.

Here is a link that might be useful: Santa Rosa Gardens

    Bookmark   April 16, 2011 at 8:16AM
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Donn - thanks for the information. I found the book you suggested on Amazon and was able to see a little of it - it looks beautiful - but I ordered Darke's pocket guide instead and may order his encyclopedia later. I have ordered some grasses from Santa Rosa but they have been always the small grasses for containers and yes they provide excellent service. I might even give them a call and see what suggestions they may have for me. But - as I have been browsing the internet and reading a lot online I don't see or read about ornamental grasses being grown in my area. It seems like they are grown mostly in the Northern areas so do you think that is because they just don't do as well down south? I understand what you are saying about hardscape features but unfortunately in Florida a boulder (which I love rocks and I have lots of "mini" boulders in my pond areas) are very rare and very expensive. Maybe I can think of something else. So I will certainly research and yes you are so right in saying it is best to get right the first time.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2011 at 9:25AM
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Calling SRG is a good idea...ask for Dina. She'll know what Floridians are growing. You have a wide variety of grasses to choose from, many I can't even begin to grow up here. The world of tropical and sub-tropical grasses is immense. The specialized fountain grasses developed by Alan Armitage at Athens Select are good examples. They're designed for your climate, and are beautiful. Emerald Coast Growers (Milton, Pace and Pensacola FL) is one of their propagators, and a major vendor for SRG. One of our members, GrassGuy, is affiliated with ECG. He lives and grows beautiful grasses in Florida.

It also might be worthwhile to check out the Florida Gardening Forum right here at GW.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2011 at 10:41AM
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When I was researching ornamental grasses this past winter I came across the following two links which you may find interesting. The second link is to an ornamental grass trial conducted in Florida
("Landscape Performance, Flowering, and Seed Viability of 15 Japanese Silver Grass Cultivars Grown in Northern and Southern Florida").

    Bookmark   April 16, 2011 at 8:39PM
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