SUPER GRASSES; Bring a different texture to your garden with wild and glorious ornamental specimens.
It's also when many ornamental grasses are at their peak, bearing golden, silver and yellow flowers, bringing to mind fields of wheat and barley about to be harvested.
Grasses bring a different texture to the garden and, interspersed among herbaceous perennials, they create soft structural elements in the border and throughout the garden.
Single specimens can be used as focal points on corners or paths.
Mass or drift planting makes a soft statement and is a good way to create a calm effect or deal with large tracts of space.
They work well in a mixed border, a modern planting scheme and in the cottage garden. They are the staple of 'prairie-style' planting which uses readily available perennials and grasses to create a wild, naturallooking border.
As with all planting, size and form is everything when it comes to grasses.
They vary in size from the giant Miscanthus sinensis 'Goliath' which stands 2.5 metres tall, to Deschampsia 'Tatra Gold', a neat little tuft with flowering stems that reach about 30cm at most.
In general, grasses prefer a sunny spot, but there is a grass for every location, including shade if that's appropriate.
Likewise, there is a grass for every soil - some like it dry, others prefer to have their roots damp.
Read the label when buying, or if you're not sure, ask for advice - good garden centres and nurseries are full of enthusiastic gardeners who are delighted to share their knowledge and advice. Resist tidying up your grasses in autumn - many of their seed heads will look good throughout winter and you can chop them back in early spring to neaten things up.
'Hameln' Here's a list of some of my favourites that I find both functional and beautiful: | Pennisetum 'Hameln' - there are a number of varieties of fountain grass now available, but for the British climate, Hameln seems to be the most reliable for producing fluffy flowers. It prefers a sunny site with well-drained soil and will tolerate drier soils.
| Stipa gigantea - golden oats will reach two metres and over if it gets the right conditions. It is one of the most magnificent grasses in full bloom and makes a striking specimen plant in the middle of a large border. It prefers well-drained soil in full sun.
| Calamagrostis 'Karl Foerster' and 'Overdam' are two very useful grasses - at 1.5 metres they have an excellent upright form and delightful blooms of soft seed heads that condense to a neater, narrower form over the season. They like full sun and moist soil.
| Hakonechloa macra - Japanese forest grass is my favourite. I love its graceful green foliage and round mound shape. It performs in sun or partial shade so long as soil isn't too dry.
| Cortaderia richardii is a relative of the pampas grass and, like its cousin, needs a good bit of space. It's a large statement grass with beautiful feathery arching plumes. It likes moisture-retentive soil. | Miscanthus has the most beautiful flowers which last well into winter. The 'Ferner Osten' variety has silky purple heads which fade to silver - I have a row planted and it's so bushy that it acts as a kind of hedge.
| 'Zebrinus' is an eye-catching variegated plant with horizontal bands of yellow across the leaf.
It's a way to create a calm effect or to deal with large spaces