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Grasses and Ferns

Both ornamental grasses and ferns are great at "filling in".  When added to a garden they provide a textural back drop that compliments and enhances the floral displays.  On their own they are very good at creating simple but effective, contemporary swaths.  There are many varieties that can grow in inhospitable conditions, making them very useful for those "tricky spots".  Listed below are a few of  Ben's favorite Grasses and Ferns. 

Chasmanthium latifolium


An attractive and reliable grass that forms dense tidy clumps of soft foliage, which changes from a fresh vibrant green in the spring to a pale buff in winter.  Late summer gives rise to drooping panicles holding highly ornamental flowers that have the appearance of flattened oats.  These persist well into winter, providing interest in the garden, although look equally decorative if cut and used fresh or dried in the house.

Native to the woodland glades and riverbanks of central and eastern US and northeast Mexico. It prefers a moist but well drained soil, ranging in acidity, with sun or partial shade. Slow to establish in drier areas. 


Maximum Height and Spread: Approximately 1m x 0.5m

Hakonechloa macra


A beautiful, deciduous grass that forms soft, textural hummocks of emerald green. Late Spring gives rise to the new foliage, filling gaps between existing planting and bulbs. By late summer delicate sprays of tiny, needle like flowers cascade over the foliage, which in turn takes on a golden colour as Autumn encroaches.  By Winter the leaf blades are a dull buff but still provide a textural element to the frosted garden.


Very easy to grow, this grass will sit happily in full sun and part shade, in most soils apart from the poorest and driest.  Simply cut back to ground level late Winter, removing the old dead foliage.


Maximum Height and Spread: Approximately 0.8m x 1m

Miscanthus nepalensis


Native to Burma and the Himalaya, this beautiful species of Miscanthus is light and open in habit. In late Spring, tufts of fresh green, linier leaves appear, slowly gaining momentum as the season goes on.  Then in late Summer, showy plumes of golden silk erupt and are held well above the foliage on slender stems.  These flowers last right through Winter and into early Spring, remaining gold but becoming fluffy with age.


Preferring a sunny site in a fertile and free draining soil. This grass is great for planting in between early perennials for late season interest, or with transparent, prairie style plantings to enhance the overall look.  Although hardy in the West Sussex garden, M. nepalensis dislikes sitting wet in winter months where it can sulk or even die. Easy to grow from seed and flowering in the first year if sown early.


Maximum Height and Spread: Approximately 1.5m x 1m

Polystichum setiferum 'Herrenhausen'


A great selection of the evergreen, soft shield fern. Young finely cut fronds unfurl during the onset of Spring, spreading out laterally from a central crown that is covered in coppery down.  


Will grow in shade with ease and light sun given enough moisture. Tolerant of most soils and is great for adding substance and softening those tricky "Dry Shade" areas.  Cut back old fronds early in the year to allow space for Spring bulb displays, or leave tell the new seasons growth begins to grow.


Maximum Height and Spread: Approximately 0.8m x 1m

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