3 Top Ornamental Grasses: Tips to Improve Your Lawn
By Beth Monroe, Public Relations and Marketing Director, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden
A transformation took place at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden this past Wednesday. We replaced more than 9,000 square feet of traditional turf with 2,000 ornamental grasses. The location of the new Grass Garden in front of the highly visible Conservatory makes a statement. “We want to show how ornamental grass can be used in the landscape, including a formal one,” explains Horticulture Director Grace Chapman. You can read more about the “why’s” of this project in an earlier Garden blogpost Coming Soon: Ornamental Grass Garden at the Conservatory. There’s definitely a growing interest in alternatives to the traditional lawn, as reported by the Associated Press article Brave New Gardening for Brave New Climates.
The speed of the installation was a testimony to careful planning, coordination and hard work by numerous staff and volunteers. Visitors on Tuesday afternoon saw hundreds of small flags marking the planting plan. Visitors on Thursday morning saw a beautiful new grass garden. See a photo gallery of the Grass Garden installation on the Richmond Times-Dispatch website.
Which ornamental grasses did we choose? As with most gardening initiatives, the project took planning, time and patience. Two years ago we began trialing seven ornamental grasses, taking care to choose non-invasive varieties and those native to the United States. Three were selected, based on criteria including performance and desired color, form and height. They include Panicum virgatum ‘Northwind’ (also 2014 Perennial Plant of the Year ™), Prairie Dropseed (Sporobolus herterolepis) and Pink Muhlygrass (Muhlenbergia capillaris). Sharp eyes will notice there’s a placeholder for a fourth grass in the back of the display.
We’re currently searching for the best non-invasive accent grass in terms of size and availability.
Traditional turf certainly has its uses. The idea is to encourage people to think of alternatives that are environmentally friendly, require less maintenance and beautiful. We hope you’ll visit often and find splendor in our ornamental grass.