On ‘mental annual grasses

Ornamental grasses are coming into their own just now and it’s time to sing some praises (and maybe one dirge). There are reviews here and here with links to more and more about all kinds of grasses in all kinds of places so I’m setting a self imposed limit to speak only about our annuals/tender perennials.

I’ve already shown pictures of everyone’s new favorite this year, Pink paintbrush grass (Melinis nerviglumis ‘Savannah’). We don’t know yet if we’ll find it seeded all over the garden but since we want it pretty much everywhere next year, that wouldn’t be a totally unwelcome thing.Pink paintbrush grass (Melinis nerviglums ‘Savannah’


Praying mantis on the Love grassThis is our second year for Love grass (Eragrostis tef ‘Ruby Silk’) and I take the blame for this one. I -and the wildlife- love the silky soft inflorescences that begin red and extend to brown. I think it’s handsome, if delicate, in arrangements and deadheading it satisfies the obsessive-compulsive in me. But the plants slouch like bored teenagers. If they weren’t planted en masse and held captive and upright in a Cutting Garden grid, we’d probably have to kick them out of the house for looking like weedy slackers. (Get a job!)love-grass.jpg
Palm grass (Setaria palmifolia) is another that we use in arrangements although it’s a bit of a pain because the blades are deceptively covered in eensy splintery hairs that lodge in all uncalloused finger flesh. (Where are my gloves?) We keep a couple of stock plants in the greenhouse and have been successful growing it from seed. (It usually flowers for us in the winter after we’ve cut the bulk of the plant to nubs.) Setaria palmifolia in the Cutting Garden
Ornamental millet (Pennisetum glaucum) has been a favorite of the volunteer flower arrangers – its burly black seed heads are very dramatic and the dark foliage is a great contrast for – just about anything! In the garden, we’ve got it stunningly and serendipitously paired with Snow on the mountain (Euphorbia marginata) – can’t miss that combo. Ornamental millet, Snow on the mountain and Black-eyed Susan

Another favorite of mine, grown for the 2nd year in a row, is Job’s tears (Coix lacryma-jobi). Arching inflorescences dangle shiny seeds that clack like prayer beads. Last year I went a little crazy collecting the black and gray seeds because I thought I’d make jewelry… We sowed some of them instead.Job’s tears (Coix lacryma-jobi) and Zinnias


Fountain grass (Pennisetum setaceum)Gail has been growing Fountain grass (Pennisetum setaceum – sold by Stokes as Pennisetum ruppelianum) for the gardens since well before my time and it’s certainly a tried and true winner. This year we used it in the Rose Garden and I’m not sure yet if I think it’s a good addition or a clash of cultures. Any opinions??Fountain grass in the Rose Garden

This new neighbor kitty (who, incidentally, has the biggest paws I’ve ever seen on a tigger) thinks it’s just what the garden needed.Cat grass

(Hover over pictures for titles/I.D.s and click on for larger images.)

12 thoughts on “On ‘mental annual grasses

  1. Hi again, Kris

    Oh my … what beautiful grasses it is tricky to find a favourite! I think I will have to go for the Pink paintbrush one (fantastic name) with the love grass a close second 🙂

    Thanks for joining in – this has been brilliant to see such a variety of grasses every time a post comes along! It has also been great to see blogs I have never visited before – I will be back to see you again 🙂

  2. I saw ornamental millet used in the San Antonio Botanical Garden that I blogged about recently and really liked its color and form. I may have to find a spot for that one. I’m crazy about that pink paintbrush grass, but it looks like a biggie. And, yes, I’m a fan of pairing pennisetums with pink roses. In fact, I’ve done just that in my own garden.

  3. Kris: Entertaining, delightful, informative as you always are! I love them all and want to see those ‘clacking’ beads! Thanks for joining in the fun. I will be adding a few to the garden next year on your recommendations!

  4. I’ve been making it around to all the ‘grasses’ posts. Very inspiring, and I must say you do have some beauties I’ve never seen before… Annuals, you say?

  5. oh you have such a wide world over there to play in! i’m envious… i might be able to put in one or two specimens, but no vistas of nodding brushes like you’ve got. thanks for your beautiful photos!

  6. Shirl, Thank you for being a great host! I have yet to make all the rounds but if it really actually rains today, maybe I’ll get a chance to!

    Pam, I got down low to take the shot of the pink paintbrush – the blooms nod at hip height actually! – You might have room for it after all. And thanks for the yea vote on the Rose Garden grass!

    Layanee, Thank you too for being a great host (and for the invite!). There should be lots of beads on the Job’s tears by Gardener’s Day — I’ll share!

    LisaBee, Thank you for visiting! A couple of these may be perennial for you in Northern CA – what zone are you?

    Bright, There’s A LOT to be said for intimate vista-less gardens. I think some of these would sparkle in a jewel box…

  7. I vote for keeping the grass in the rose garden–I think it makes a lovely combination!

    All of these grasses are very interesting. Our garden centers carried a different variety of the melinis that are blooming in their containers now, but I haven’t seen that variety of lovegrass available here before. Do you grow the lovegrass each year from seed? (I hope you do–that means that maybe I could, too!) And by the way, that grass is arching or weeping… not slacking. 😉

  8. Kim, Thanks for your vote!! We do grow the love grass from seed (Johnny’s) started in the greenhouse in March. And honestly, I have it unhooped in my own garden and it doesn’t just arch, it falls over and takes a nap on its neighbors! All it needs to be a weeping beauty rather than sleeping beauty is a tomato cage (one or two plants) or a peony hoop (4+ plants depending on the diameter…) I do love the love grass though.

  9. Oh… the one in the picture is hooped already! I read that, now that I think about it, but I was too distracted by that picture and the one of the lovely grass below it for it to fully register. 🙂 Hmm… sounds like a good use for the small tomato cages I have whose tops are broken already. I like it when things happen serendipitously. Thanks for the info.

  10. ok kris, you’ve inspired me. i was at the store the other day and got two japanese blood grasses as an experiment. i’ve got them in a taller pot (though, now i’m wishing it was huge), so i can move them around like the spaz i am and see where i like them… thanks!

  11. My pleasure, Kim!
    and Yay, Bright! My work here is done. – for the moment…!

  12. Did the Savannah pink paintbrush seed all over the garden?

    Uma, It hasn’t self sowed for us at all – and I don’t think I’d mind if it did! Does it for you? -kris

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