Grasses at May Dreams Gardens, or Lack There Of

You will find my garden lacking in ornamental grasses.

I know of many good reasons to plant ornamental grasses, including for the winter interest they provide and for the movement they add to the garden as they sway out there in the wind.

I see ornamental grasses growing in other gardens, and I like them alright. I just haven't made room for them in my own garden.

I do have this patch of what I call Zebra Grass, but I don't know if that is really what it is. A colleague at work gave this grass to me when I first moved to this house and I've regretted planting it ever since.

Let me count the ways that I don't like it.

1. It spreads without regard for the other plants around it and tries to take over their space. 2. It doesn't have great winter interest. 3. When it mats down in the winter, I'm sure it provides little meadow voles with a wonderful place to hide. 4. As you can see from the picture, it doesn't do well in dry years

I also at one time had some Japanese blood grass, but I dug it out this spring. It was a slow, deliberate spreader and was just not in a good place. Someone gave me that grass, too.

And that's pretty much it for the ornamental grasses in my gardens.

So why am I writing about ornamental grasses, if they are such a small part of my garden?

Layanee at Ledge and Garden and Shirl at Shirls Gardenwatch are posting about their ornamental grasses this weekend and thought it would be fun to see how many ornamental grasses other gardeners have. I'll join in most any garden blogging party!

So here I've joined their party, bringing along my one ornamental grass.

I feel like I've brought a bag of chips to the party, posting about just one ornamental grass, when everyone else has prepared a gourmet feast, posting about all kinds of wonderful ornamental grasses.

But I do have this kind of grass...
The lawn is starting to look green again! Today was all cloudy and blah out, and then it started raining, which turns out to be just the kind of day we've been hoping for. It's nice to hear the rain on the roof again and it should rain off and on tonight and into tomorrow morning. It's wonderful!


  1. OH-OH! I think you may have a form of ribbon grass and, if it is, it'd like very much to take over your garden...ALL OF IT. Japanese Blood grass can also be invasive, I hear. I don't know for sure becuse it's said to be hardy to USDA 5 and I'm zone 4. Winter cold has killed it twice in my gardens, but I'm thinking after reading your blog that I should be ecstatic about that! ;-)

  2. Carol: You are such a sport! Great blog on problems with grasses. Interesting that the Japanese Blood Grass can be invasive as it just doesn't like here in my garden but then I do have clayish soil so that may be the answer. I know there's a grass you could love but you will have to choose! Thanks!

  3. Oh, I forgot to tell you how much I still like your lawn! I remember that post from spring with that perfect green swath! I'm working on that kind of a lawn and you are the inspiration!

  4. Oh that terrible ribbon grass it is the bane of my existence, Carol. But the Japanese Bloodgrass, well, I just wish it would invade my garden but it won't even come back for me. So there ! I love the ornamental grasses but truth be told you need a lot of room to grow the really beautiful ones that can get quite large and invasive. I only have room for one major grass and I watch it so that it doesn't spread.

    The rain was wonderful wasn't it? And today was so beautiful I just couldn't stay inside.

  5. You and I have the same favorite grass, I see! I've had the mulching attachment on my mower for the last 5 or 6 weeks and the lawn seems to love it.

    Good post, Carol, I'll have to take some pictures of my ornamental grasses though I don't have many.

  6. Well, you have a very nice grass lawn, Carol. ;-) Maybe you'll be inspired by all these posts about ornamental grasses. I've been inspired to plant a few more in my garden this year, adding form and texture rather than flowers, and I'm pleased with the effect, especially at this time of year.

  7. Hi there, Carol

    Great post! The thing about us gardeners is that we are as passionate about our hates as much as our loves when it comes to what we grow in our gardens!

    Thanks for joining the party – your chips were excellent :-)

  8. Ha! Not the kind of grasses post I was expecting. :)

    That ribbon grass (aka phalaris, aka gardeners' garters) is a pain, but the Japanese bloodgrass is not invasive in my garden. It does come back, but doesn't spread quite as much as I'd like. I have heard that the named varieties are much better behaved, and maybe that is why?

  9. Carol, you are indeed a good sport! LOL!

    For many years we planted ornamental grasses around our ponds. Never again. They are messy and require a lot of work when cutting down and cleaning up the pond areas. What a drag. They're very pretty, though, when the wind catches them.

    Rain, ey? I agree, it's nice to have a good washing. The pigeon poop is building up on the roof...

    We might get some rain this week!

  10. Carol, I have some of that ribbon grass, too, and OMG, it's all I can do to keep it contained, but I do manage. It certainly requires a lot of attention, though. And I hate how it gets brown around the bottom at the end of the season. I think maybe I'll just take it out this fall. I do love the look of it though, when it's all green and white and in its place.

  11. I only have one type of ornamental grass also and it is indigenous. I didn't plant it. I may plant more in the future. Who knows.

  12. I love grasses and have several types, mostly in my front landscape beds.

    But the grasses I've mostly worried about this summer are in my lawn. All the rain we've had all summer was in a single week--4 inches. I know I keep whining about this, but the drought is heavy on my mind. And I have spent an inordinante amount of time hauling water this year in lieu of other gardening efforts.


    --Robin (Bumblebee)

  13. Hi Carol,
    The only grass I have right now [besides the St Augustine lawn] is native Inland Sea Oats. They can seed around and are kept in an isolated spot. Although I used to grow some lovely varieties of Miscanthus and Pennisetum in IL, I don't want to plant them in Texas, so maybe some day I'll copy Pam/Digging and get some Mexican Feather Grass.

    As to invasiveness - a previous owner put in ribbon grass at our previous Austin house...and it croaked in the heat!

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  14. Carol, I highly recommend the Miscanthus grasses for incredible winter interest. As for your Phalaris (gardener's garters, ribbon grass, etc)'s not quite as bad as goutweed, but it's a pain. Try it in a planter for the summer, but otherwise dig it up if it's trying to take over the neighbourhood.

    Glad your lawn is turning green again, though this means mowing, yes? (we're never satisfied, are we?)

  15. Dirty Knees... Ribbon grass! Seems to be the consensus that it is ribbon grass. And yes, be happy the japanese blood grass didn't over winter.

    Layanee... I know that "out there" I'll find some ornamental grasses that I love. I just need to set my mind to finding them. And thanks for the kind words about my lawn... it is not as good now because of the drought, but it will come back this fall!

    Carolyn Gail... The rain was indeed quite welcome, and you are right that a lot of the good ornamental grasses need some room...

    LostRoses... I think we are in the minority in loving our lawns. BTW I use a mulching blade all the time.

    Pam/digging... I am hoping to add some ornamental grasses that don't act like thugs trying to take over the whole place and with all these posts, I'm sure to find some I like.

    Shirl... I don't hate ornamental grasses, by the way, just haven't gotten around to planting any. Happy to hear you liked the chips!

    Blackswamp_Girl... I wonder what you were expecting? ;-) On the japanese blood grass, it was a slow spreader, but where it spread it was like wires stuck in concrete, very difficult to dig up. But I dug most of it out this spring. I say most because some came back that I need to dig out again.

    Mary... Yes, growing ornamental grasses isn't carefree when it comes to chopping it down at some point in early spring/late winter. I hope you get some rain!

    Kylee... I think one of the benefits of the "moderate drought" is the ribbon grass hasn't done well, so now is the time to dig it out!

    Chigiy... So your post about your ornamental grass would be short, too?

    Robin(bumblebee)... I hear you on the lack of rainfall. But we got an inch last night. An inch!

    Annie in Austin... My ribbon grass looks pretty bad this year, as you can see from the picture, so I'm going to go ahead and dig out a lot of it. Who knows, maybe all of it?

    Jodi... Thanks for the grass advice. I did put some ribbon grass in a container this year and it didn't look too bad. By the way, I am one of those gardeners who likes to mow the lawn. I was happy to mow today and actually have some lawn to mow and not be kicking up a bunch of dust!

    I've enjoyed all your comments about my (lack of) ornamental grasses... good advice all the way around. Thank you!

    Carol at May Dreams Gardens

  16. I live in zone 1b and ribbon grass is invasive here too, I'm afraid. On the other hand, I have blue oat grass in my yard which does NOT spread and looks amazing.

  17. carol - i love ornamental grass and i hope to plant more of it next year. i bought a purple fountain grass for 1 dollar that really took off in my garden and is now one of my favorite things.

  18. Carol,
    I love to read about how you dislike a a plant only to realize that it is one you have passed along to me! BUT, in my case I love the ribbon grass because it is the ONLY thing I've been able to grow in the rocks up next to the house. So for now, let it invade (wish it were a deep shade loving plant!)

  19. Hmmm...I sympathize with your thoughts on zebra grass...It really only belongs in an area that is completely enclosed by large deep blocks of cement...
    There is a lovely variegated mounding Japanese Grass, but I don't know it's name.
    GartenGrl at
    Planning Plants to Plant


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