Lomandra Nyalla GrassesNew Ornamental Grasses are Extremely Effective in the Landscape

Today I want to talk about how to get the most from using ornamental grasses in your garden/landscape.

When you go into a plant retailer these days, you will be offered a very big selection of ornamental grasses. The big question is which variety do you choose and importantly will perform outstandingly well for you? Because the grades offered are often quite small and its very hard visually at this early stage to see any distinguishing features, but I can assure you that some varieties are definitely better performers than others.

You can go into any town or city throughout the country and see ornamental grasses, which have been used in public gardens, parks, traffic islands, carparks, and of course in homeowner’s gardens.

Most of the time the grasses look rather average to awful - that’s because the wrong varieties have been used, for Waikato gardens.

If you go down to the South Island around Queenstown and Wanaka regions, the grasses are beautiful and look really stunning. A lot of the southern grass varieties perform very poorly in our warmer/more humid northern districts. I say to my clients, most of the time when you see an attractive garden containing ornamental grasses then it’s probably been planted only a couple of years ago.

Don’t let me put you off using ornamental grasses, I certainly think they have their place in the modern low-maintenance garden, but you need to select the best performing varieties.

There are some new Aussie-bred varieties of ornamental grasses that are really amazing, and won’t let you down, with the foliage going brown and scruffy and looking like it needs a damn good comb. The Australian nursery industry has for some time been putting a lot of time and effort into breeding outstanding performing ornamental grasses that really hold up in the most severe droughts, strong winds and heavy frosts. Today I want to mention just a few varieties that I have had good experience with and found to be extremely reliable performers, so that you can possibly look at using them in your garden.

LOMANDRA TANIKA - a truly great new variety, with lush green foliage, and the foliage hangs gracefully over in an arch. I have found that in our great Waikato climate, the ideal spacing is about 1 plant per square metre; this allows you to see the plant in its full shape. Many landscapers plant at a lot closer spacing, and within a short time the plants look all bunched up, and so there is no style or form to the grass. In fact last year I took every second plant out, in our garden, and the resulting plants left are looking so much more attractive now. I work on the plants getting to about 90cm x 1.0m wide. Also, I recommend you feed them 2 x per year, Sept and April - then they stay a beautiful dark green.

LOMANDRA NYALLA - another of my favourites- this attractive blue-toned selection provides a graceful versatile plant. This one has a more upright growth habit than Tanika, and both varieties make wonderful contrasting companion plants. Both grass varieties benefit from a foliage trim about every 5 years, and Nyalla provides lasting foliage for cut flower arrangements. This variety I have found gets to about 80cm x 80cm. Both grass varieties will grow equally well in shade or sunny, hot dry gardens. As I pointed out with Tanika - don’t plant them too close together - I would allow 90cm x 90cm spacing for best results.

LOMANDRA KATRINAS DELUXE - A super variety if you want a lush green jungle grass look, say at the back of a border, where you may want a bit more height or bulk. This grass has a wider more strappy leaf, and I have some at home under some palms, it does look really effective in groupings. I would allow 1.2m x 1.2 m wide, and just as good a performer as the other previous two, in shade or in full sun.

LOMANDRA LIME TUFF - outstanding small grass, that is super lush green and great for where a smaller variety is needed, getting to 45cm x 45cm. This is one of my favourites, and on mass Lime Tuff looks fantastic. As with the other grasses I have listed, this one is super drought tolerant, and holds itself very happily to all the weather elements.

You will find that these four grasses will be more expensive than the local N.Z. varieties, but I can assure you, they will perform outstandingly better and more than justify the extra money. These grasses have a plant patent, which means that they can only be grown and propagated by licensed growers, this enables a royalty to go back to the original breeders which in turn funds further breeding programmes, to gain even better varieties in the future.

There are dozens of new ornamental grasses coming onto the N.Z. market every year, and I cannot at this stage talk about or recommend a lot of these, because I have not had any experience with them and so I am reluctant to make a comment at this stage, but the four varieties I have talked about above, I can recommend from experience, that they will be good performers in Waikato gardens.

Happy Gardening with Graeme

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Graeme Burton - Landscaper - Rukuhia Homestead, RD2, Ohaupo 3882
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