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The Color Encyclopedia of Ornamental Grasses: Sedges, Rushes, Restios, Cat-Tails, and Selected Bamboos


The Color Encyclopedia of Ornamental Grasses: Sedges, Rushes, Restios, Cat-Tails, and Selected Bamboos Cover




In the laying out of lawns and artistic gardens, a few of the many beautiful hardy grasses should not be overlooked. Their stateliness, tropic luxuriance and soft colors harmoniously punctuate the prevailing green, while their graceful, sinuous yielding to every wind gives animation to gardened landscapes too apt to look "fixed."

Spring 1909 Catalog

The Storrs and Harrison Company

Painesville, Ohio

The turning of a century inspires both reflection and speculation. Looking back at ornamental grasses and their role in gardens over the past 100 years, it is easy to see that much has changed. Whereas turn-of-the-century gardeners had perhaps a dozen perennial grasses to choose from, today's gardeners have hundreds. Ornamental grasses now embody a huge array of textures, forms, sizes, colors, flowering times, and cultural adaptations. This exhilarating increase in diversity has resulted from the efforts of botanists, breeders, and nurseries in nearly all parts of the globe and seems certain to continue. The unprecedented popularity grasses now enjoy can be attributed partly to this development; however, there are other factors fueling the current enthusiasm that are sure to influence the place grasses will hold in tomorrow's gardens.

<Left Image: The vivid blue foliage of blue wheatgrass,

Elymus magellanicus

, provides sharp colorcontrast with the flowers of

Stachys stricta

"Dark Lilac" in Alan Bloom's garden in Bressingham, England, in mid-July. Photo by Rick Darke.>

As we enter not just a new century but a new millennium, we are doing more than expanding the plant palette &#8212; we are redefining the garden. Landscape gardening, that unique confluence of art and science, is searching for a model that will provide an opportunity for creative expression and a reverent link to the larger ecology. Gardens must be at once inspiring and conserving, high-spirited and low maintenance. They must reflect and sustain the rhythms of our lives and our homes, and they must speak to us eloquently of the sun and seasons. Delightfully, grasses are sympathetic to all these ideals.

This book is intended for gardeners in a wide range of situations and climates, and draws from the experience and creativity of great gardens and gardeners around the world. It begins with an exploration of the unique aesthetics and appeal of ornamental grasses. A review of the families of ornamental grasses explains botanical characteristics important to gardeners. A chapter on names helps to simplify the complex, often confusing world of botanical and horticultural nomenclature and taxonomy. A survey of grasses in their native habitats analyzes ecological and visual patterns that can be of practical and inspirational value to gardeners. The design section features the imaginative use of grasses in myriad fine gardens, and a chapter on growing and maintaining grasses explains how to support such creations.

Gardeners usually speak of "ornamental grasses" in the broad sense, including not only the true grasses, but also related families of grasslike plants, such as sedges and rushes. Following this tradition, this book provides a detailed treatment of the perennial grasses (Poaceae), sedges (Cyperaceae), rushes (Juncaceae), restios (Restionaceae), and cat-tails (Typhaceae) available to modern gardeners, as well as selected bamboos (Poaceae).

From Chapter 5 "Designing with Grasses"

Ornamental grasses are a stunningly versatile group, offering myriad possibilities in the garden limited only by the imagination of the designer. The vast modern palette includes species and cultivated varieties suited for use as specimens, accents, groundcovers, masses, hedges, container subjects, and a host of other purposes.

<Right Image:

Carex Grayi

in early June at Springwood, the eastern Pennsylvania garden of Dick and Sally Lighty. Photo by Rick Darke.>



Grasses are often most effective in garden designs that allow them to interplay with other perennials, annuals, biennials, trees, and shrubs. When first using grasses a common impulse is to segregate them; however, this rarely results in a satisfying design. Just as a border composed solely of flowering perennials can be colorfully bland, a garden collection of different grasses is often equally lacking in dimension and balance. Designs that utilize a variety of plant types are not only aesthetically richer, they are often the soundest strategy for making gardens capable of providing year-round interest while minimizing labor and consumption of natural resources.

Working with Light in the Garden

To best capture the inherent translucency and luminous possibilities of ornamental grasses, it is important to develop an awareness of the direction, strength, and periods of sunlight in the garden. Even relatively shady gardens have points and moments when the sun's direct rays can work magic. It is equally rewarding to carefully consider the patterns of daily and seasonal activity in the garden. For example, think of the times of day an established or potential garden path will be used and the direction from which the sunlight will be coming. If planting a west-facing walk that will be used regularly at the end of the day, any grasses situated between the one walking the path and the setting sun will be naturally back-lighted. Similar considerations are worthwhile when designing favorite sitting spaces, focal points, or views to the garden from inside the house.

<Right Image: The sun's backlighting enhances the already-gold autumn foliage and reddish brown spikelets of wild-oats.

Product Details

Sedges, Rushes, Restios, Cat-tails, and Selected Bamboos
Darke, Rick
Timber Press
Portland, Or. :
Flowers - General
Plants - Grasses
Pictorial works
Ornamental Plants
Ornamental grasses
Ornamental grasses -- Pictorial works.
Flowers - Perennials
Edition Description:
Hardback - With dust jacket
Publication Date:
Grade Level:
11 x 8.5 in

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The Color Encyclopedia of Ornamental Grasses: Sedges, Rushes, Restios, Cat-Tails, and Selected Bamboos Used Hardcover
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Product details 326 pages Timber Press (OR) - English 9780881924640 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by , If you are a grass afficionado, your library is not complete without the most authoritative and best-illustrated reference ever published. Includes more than 500 photographs of grasses, sedges, rushes, restios, cat-tails, and selected bamboos--many taken in more than one season.
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