Monday, August 20, 2012

Designing with Grasses by Neil Lucas

Grasses flowering in a natural area at our local park.
Grasses flowering in a natural area at our local park.
I am beginning to really delve into the world of ornamental grasses this summer by reading a fantastic book, Designing with Grasses by Neil Lucas.

This book covers many topics including: grasses in natural communities; using grasses to decrease garden maintenance; designing pleasing gardens with grasses by using repetition and form; choosing the correct grass for damp, dry, sun or shade; and discussion of sustainable environmental practices that utilize grasses. It also includes a sizable directory of "Grasses and Grass-like Plants," which is so helpful a reference even while reading this book to help you remember which grass Mr. Lucas is describing at the moment. Beautiful and practical photos are throughout the book to help illustrate using grasses in different types of designs.


I always take notes in my garden journal while reading a good gardening book to help record ideas that strike me, any new plant names, and my own ideas that come as a result of reading. Here are a few of my favorite ideas and plants taken from Designing with Grasses by Neil Lucas:
  • Use the same material for mulching planting areas as you are using for the paths to reduce maintenance (bark and pine needles work well), pg 33.
  • Use Pennisetum 'Fairy Tails' by solid structures to lighten the hardscape (ex. beside a pool patio, building, or staircase), pg 91.
  • Plant combination from Dave and Rainie Fross' garden in Arroyo Grande California: Blue oat grass (Helictotrichon), Orange sedge (Carex testacea), Blue fescue (Festuca) and Salvia 'Purple Rain', pg 88.
  • Container plantings of Orange sedge (Carex testacea) to help it hang down a bit; Miscanthus sinensis 'Morning Light' seen at Wisley, UK; or Feather grass Jarava ichu as seen at Mr. Lucas' home display at Knoll Gardens, UK, pg 122-123.
  • Use native Pennsylvania sedge, Carex pensylvanica, as a no mow option under trees, pg 125.
Gardening book: Designing with Grasses by Neil Lucas. Click here to see this book on Amazon
Click here to see this book on Amazon

Those are really just a few of the gems to glean from this book. I considered myself a real beginner in grasses when I began reading and it has helped me to put the pieces together about using grasses in my garden. Perhaps you might enjoy it too!

I am linking to Holley at Roses and other Gardening Joys today for her August book review. She has a great review this month on a book about one of my favorite gardens, Hidcote Manor.

For more, read my post on ornamental grasses Latin and common names.

18 comments:

  1. I have not yet taken the plunge in adding grasses to my garden, but I love the look when I see them in other gardens. I should get this book so I won't be so afraid of grasses - especially since he has a section on grasses in containers! That sounds like a wonderful idea! And what a smart idea to jot down ideas in a garden journal when reading a book! Thanks so much for the review, and for joining in!

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    1. Holley,
      That really is what this book has done for me - helped me to not be scared of grasses! There is just such a wealth of knowledge in this area that I have lacked.

      I am glad I was finally able to post a review!
      ~Julie

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  2. I do admire you, Julie, for keeping a garden journal. I write notes on scraps of paper -- so disorganized. This would be a good New Years Resolution for me -- or sooner if possible. The book sounds wonderful. P. x

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    1. Pam,
      I highly recommend using a date book that has a monthly overview and then larger blocks for weekly tasks. Having it already dated has really helped it be easier for me to fill in bloom dates, cut-back dates, mulching dates, etc and look at it all at the end of the year to see where I have the most gaps.
      ~Julie

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  3. I like that you keep a journal. That was always recommended in our Master Gardening classes, but something I never did but wished I did. I saw your GBBD post earlier today and for some reason could not leave the comment. Nice post. I use grasses quite a bit, they are so versatile in design.

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    1. Sorry about the comments... who ever knows with Blogger! :)

      I recommend a date book, as I said to Pam above. Gardening is so driven by the calender, so it helps to have a calender to fill out.

      Thanks for reading and your comment!
      ~Julie

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  4. Wow....looks like my kind of book. I love grasses and wish so much I had more sunshine for them. Thanks for finding this book and sharing it with us. David/:0)

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    1. You are very welcome David! Hope you enjoy it.
      ~Julie

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  5. I love grasses in my garden. One year I planted Blue oat grass and Blue fescue. They survived the first winter but the second one was the last for them. It was pity.

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  6. Hi Julie, you know I love grasses for their all year interest and the movement they give to a planting. Thanks for a good review. I also admire you for the journal; where you you find the time? Christina

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    1. Christina,
      I eek out time here and there... It is best when I remember to write my garden to-do notes right into my journal, take it on a walk around the yard every so often, and I often fill in the missed sections of the bloom calender in the winter months from all of those photos I take! Perhaps I might do another little post about this later.
      Thanks!
      ~Julie

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  7. I need to get that book. I use grasses, but I can't say I've figured out how to really integrate them into my beds. Plus, I need to expand my pallette. I know I like switchgrass, palm sedge, and prairie dropseed, have mixed feelings about bottlebrush grass and prairie dropseed, and am negative about wild ryes. I'd like to try more short to mid-length grasses, including pennisetums.

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    1. Jason,
      Shorter grasses are so much more useable in small gardens. I like all of the ones you mention! Thanks.
      ~Julie

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  8. Oh, perfect timing! We're planning to add ornamental Grasses to tough slope on the west side of the house. I must have this book!

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  9. Grasses do add a certain something to a garden. I found out the hard way that some grasses just don't like my heavy damp soil but others, Miscanthus and some Stipa have settled in and are doing well. Seeing them waving in the breeze adds movement to the border as well as different textures contrasting with the other plants.

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  10. Julie I love grasses and look for ways to add more...I will definitely check out the book! I also have been keeping notes in a spiral notebook but not by date...i try to use my journal posts to help, but a date book sounds like a good place to keep notes too

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  11. I would find a post about maintaining a journal very useful. As I'm designing a new garden I am doing a ton of reading. I hadn't given much thought to grasses but from your review I think I have to consider them.

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  12. Julie, your recommendation is timely! I am doing a large book order in September and have put this on the list. Thanks!

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