Decorative grasses have become increasingly popular in the recent years. They survive with very little water

Landscape gardeners of late seem to be very fond of decorative grasses in the gardens, designed by them across the city. Ornamental grasses are simple flowering grasses, grown as ornamental plants. They have become increasingly popular in recent years. Along with true grasses (Poaceae), several other families of grass-like plants like rushes are typically marketed as ornamental grasses. All are monocotyledons, with typical narrow leaves and parallel veins. Being herbaceous perennials, they bring striking linear form, texture, colour, motion and sound to the garden, throughout the year.

Today, they can be found everywhere, in gardens on terraces, small patios and even large gardens in holiday resorts across Bangalore. A visit to see the rambling Bangalore International Airport landscaped garden, one can admire mounds of purple fountain grass (Pennisetum setaceum), a favourite of gardeners everywhere because of its burgundy-red foliage and feathery flowers all year round.

Shriram Salunkhe, AVP, Landscape, BIAL says the Pennisetum setaceum needs full sun and well-drained soil to grow to three feet tall. The feathery plumes dance around in the breeze, as we walk around the green houses and hot houses, feasting our eyes on the colour all around us. The garden also had fountain grass (Pennisetum alopecuroides) which had green leaves and a beautiful shape — as well as soft, feathery plumes. This grass needs full sun and well-drained soil.

“I like using purple fountain grass often in container gardens that I make for people on their terraces,” says Shanker, one of the gardeners in Lalbagh. “I continuously divide these ornamental grasses into different clumps to keep them healthy and beautiful. They grow well in compost in Bangalore’s climate.”

However Prakash Alvares, landscape architect in Bangalore says, “The disadvantage of the purple fountain grass is once the plume comes out, it dies out in two or three weeks. It does have a showy look, but I prefer the Phiophogon which is an evergreen grass-like lily which forms tufts to 18 inches tall with narrow arching leaves that are striped pale green and white. It grows in light shade or part sun and will be more robust and flower better with regular watering.”

One also sees large clumps of tall maiden grass in the larger resorts and hotels. Maiden grass is big, beautiful, and easy to grow. It offers narrow, arching foliage and silvery plumes that are enchanting when the light catches them just right. The grass can grow up to eight feet tall and tall grasses like these are used to hide external AC units in resorts and large office complexes.

Gardeners suggest the use of ornamental grass along a pathway which is a wonderful way to experience the texture of the stalks and the plume. Allowing the grasses to lean over into a walkway gives the walker an even more visceral experience. Ornamental grasses are undemanding and easy to tend. Most ornamental grasses grow best in average garden soil and the majority of ornamental grasses are drought tolerant, making them popular choices for easy gardening.