Ornamental grasses are a landscaper’s dream as they provide texture, contrast and movement when combined with softer perennials or annuals. They grow in a clumping form and so make great groundcover material. Many of them are hardy and heat tolerant, so are an ideal choice for a hot South African garden.

Festuca glauca – Blue fescue

A very attractive grey-blue grass, reaching about 30 cm in height and providing unusual blue splashes of colour that contrast with low-growing perennials or groundcovers such as white Bacopa. Blue fescue can tolerate poor soil and is heat and drought resistant – a welcome border plant in a xeriscaped garden.

Carex testacea ‘Prairie Fire’ and ‘Frosted Curls’

Wonderful textures with these two grasses are guaranteed. ‘Prairie Fire’ is an amazing red-brown colour which is an excellent contrast against other grasses or foliage. ‘Frosted Curls’ has unusual curled leaves which provide an interesting texture, especially when planted with low-growing succulents.  

Carex are not fussy about what soil they are grown in but must not be overwatered. This makes them the perfect choice for a hot, dry garden.

Ophiopogon japonicus  – Dwarf mondo grass

Mondo grass is such a useful addition to the summer garden as it is tolerant of just about any type of soil and a certain amount of neglect but does need a reasonable amount of water to retain its good looks. This tough ornamental grass is a great alternative to lawn in areas where conditions are difficult, and can be grown between pavers very successfully. 

Written by Pat Ingarfield

Featured image: Megan Hansen via Wikimedia, (CC BY-SA 2.0)