The Evergreen Hedge – Without Conifers!

gardening tips

In B.C. we love to use conifers to provide an evergreen border to our property, but, what about mixing it up a little for more visual interest?

Evergreen Hedge

The key to a great evergreen border is to not insist that everything be evergreen.  That might sound like a contradiction, but stay with me here…

Take a hedge / border that incoporates evergreen boxwood (you can use the single green or variegated variety) teamed with ornamental grasses, red Japanese Maple and Rhododendron.

The Boxwood and Rhododendron provide a solid anchor giving privacy while the ornamental grasses and red Japanese Maple provide color, texture and architecture.

Boxwood and Rhododendron are evergreen and don’t normally lose their leaves here on the West Coast.  Red Japanese Maples do lose their leaves.  They provide height and visual interest throughout the year – first with the foliage and then with the bare branches.

Ornamental grasses can be added between or in front of the Boxwood, Rhododendron and Japanese Maples providing softness and movement.

Throw in a Goldy™ euonymus as an inner border along the edge of the hedge for added pizzazz. This is a very versatile and showy, glossy gold-leafed plant can be used as a ground cover, climber, or even a small shrub.

Voila! An evergreen hedge with colour and interest!  Plus, it’s low maintenance!

Hot August Colour

August Colour

Here are some great plant choices for vibrant colour and texture during those dog days of summer when most flowering plants are looking a little lack lustre in the heat.

Hydrangeas – of course!

hot august colorHydrangea Paniculata ‘Limelight’ is a delightful choice with it’s pearly cones of white flowers with a touch of blush that deepens into a lovely pinky bronze as the season wears on. It’s an easy going and hardy shrub that grows with very little maintenance. Pruning consists of simply clipping off the flowers to grace a vase somewhere in your home.  Talk about a big bang for very little bucks!



miscanthus ornamental grassIt’s similar to Pampas grass but the flower fronds are smaller and often have a pink cast to them.  This is another easy growing plant and it spreads quickly.  If you have a sunny corner that needs some height and interest, this is the one for you!

Another varient is the Miscanthus Rigoletto

Miscanthus-Rigoletto - August colourThis beautifully graceful grass glows in the late summer sun with its arching blades of creamy white and green stripes. At around 3′ tall, it’s smaller than the larger Miscanthus which can grow anything from 6′ to 8′ tall.

Pennisetum Fountain Grass ‘ Hameln’

Pennisetum Fountain Grass ‘ Hameln’ Pennisetum Fountain Grass ‘ Hameln’ august colorThe perfect fall plant to add to your garden. It forms a fountaining clump of dark foliage that turns a lovely amber in the fall and has pinky-brown, soft foxtail-like flowers that make nice cut flowers as well. It is perfect for the front or middle of the flower border in a container garden. Growing 24” tall and 30” wide.

Helenium ‘Short and Sassy’

Helenium ‘Short and Sassy’August colourPerfect compliment to fountain grass or even in containers. These gorgeous summer flowers produce clusters of yellow blooms edged with shades of orange. This is a very reliable garden plant. In full sun, this plant will grow to be 12-18” tall and 24” wide.

Crocosmia ‘Emily McKenzie’

Crocosmia ‘Emily McKenzie august colour’One of the most dramatic late summer bloomers is the crocosmia. This clump forming, grass-like plant, sports flame orange flowers with a red center and a yellow throat and makes a gorgeous cut flower. In full sun, this plant will grow 30-48” tall and 18” wide.


Choosing Ornamental Grasses for their Season of Interest


Ornamental Grasses create visual interest, texture, color and movement when strategically used in your garden, particularly when paired with complementary plantings.


Here are some tips on choosing Ornamental Grasses for their specific season of interest and suggestions for companion planting.


Evergreen sedges, rushes and cool season grasses such as:
Juncus ‘Unicorn’, Milleum e ‘Aurem’, Carex ‘Bowles Golden’, Carex ‘Evergold’, Deschampsia ‘Northern Lights’, Festuca ‘Siskyou Blue’.

Euphorbia, Pulsatilla, Spanish Lavender, Heuchera, Spring flowering bulbs.



Helictotrichon eempervirens, Calamagrostis ‘Karl Foerster’, Stipa gigantea, Hakonochloa ‘Aureola’, Pennisetum rubrum, Imperatea ‘Red Baron’


Pervoskia ‘Little Sprie’, English Lavender, Guara, Coreopsis, Phygelius, Knautia, Cerntranthus ruber, Achillea, Eryngium, Helianthus, Echinacea, Phlomis.

For shade: Astilbe, Hosta’s, Coleus.


Pennisetum ‘Haemln’, Pannicum virgatum ‘Shenandoah’, Miscanthus, Calamagrostis brachytricha, Pennisetum Rubrum.


Anemone, Asters, Eupatorium, Helenium autumnale, Sedum, Schizostylis.


Carex ‘Ice Dance’, Carex ‘Frosty Curls’, Carex Buchannii, Miscanthus


Euphorbia wulfenii, Heuchera, Ivy, Winter bulbs such as Galanthus and Winter Aconites.


Previous articles in this series:

Ornamental Grasses and Companion Planting – Part 1

Ornamental Grasses and Companion Planting – Part 2

Ornamental Grasses and Companion Planting – Part 3

Grasses and Companion Planting – Part 3


In this article, we’re going to look at which types of ornamental grasses work for specific types of containers.

in our previous article, we looked at how to grow ornamental grasses and which grasses are best for specific conditions.  If you missed these article, click the links to read these.


Specimen Grasses for Large Containers 12″ & Bigger:

Chasmanthium latifolium
Coraderia pumila
Miscanthus sinesis ‘Adagio’Miscanthus sinesis ‘Graziella’
Miscanthus sinesis  ‘Malepartus’
Miscanthus sinesis  ‘Morning Light’
Miscanthus sinesis  ‘Rotsilber’
Miscanthus sinesis ‘Variegatus’
Miscanthus sinesis  ‘Zebrinus’
Miscanthus transmorrisonesis
Molinia caerulea ‘Moorflamme’
Molinia caerulea ‘Skyracer’
Panicum virgatum ‘Haense Herms’
Panicum virgatum ‘Heavy Metal’
Pennisetum alopecuroides
Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Moudry’
Pennisetum setaceum ‘Rubrum’

Specimen Grasses for Containers 6″ – 12″

Anemanthele lessoniana
Carex albula ‘Frosty Curls’
Carex buchananii
Carex comans ‘Bronze’
Carex dipsacea
Carex flagellifera
Carex morrowii ‘Ice Dance’
Carex oshimensis ‘Evergold’
Carex testacea
Festuca Amethystina
Festuca glauca ‘Elizjah B;jue’
Festuca idahoensis ‘Skikiyou Blue’
Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’
Helictotrichon sempervirens
Imperatea cylindrica ‘Red Baron’
Juncus effusus ‘Gold Strike’
Juncus patens ‘Carmen’s Gray’
Molinia caerulea ‘Variegata’
Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’
Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Little Bunny’
Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Hameln’
Pennisetum messiacum ‘Red Bunny Tails’
Stipa tenuissima

Grasses for Edge of Mixed Containers:

Carex albula ‘Frosty Curls’
Carex comans ‘Bronze’
Carex oshimensis ‘Evergold’
Festuca iahoensis ‘Siskiyou Blue’
Festuca glauca ‘Elijah Blue’
Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’


Grasses for Center of Mixed Containers:

Carex buchananil
Juncus effusus ‘Gold Strike’
Juncus patens ‘Carmen’s Gray’
Miscanthus sinesis ‘Adagio’
Molinia caerulea ‘Moonflamme’
Molinia caerulea ‘Skyracer’
Molinia caerulea ‘Variegata’

In Part 4 of this series, we’ll look at choosing Ornamental Grasses for their season of interest.


Grasses and Companion Planting – Part 2

golden-bowl ornamental grass

In Part 1 of the article on Grasses and Companion Planting, we discussed the ‘how to’s’ of planting and caring for cold and warm season ornamental grasses.

miscanthus ornamental grass

In Part 2, we’re going to talk about the grasses you should choose for specific environmental conditions.

Drought Tolerant Ornamental Grasses for Hot, Dry, Sunny Conditions:

Andropogon gerardii
Arundo donax
Bouteloua grucilis
Chasmanthium latifolium
Cortadaria varieties
Festuca glauca ‘Elijah Blue’
Helictotrichon sempervirens
Leymus arenarius ‘Findhorn’
Miscanthus sinesis ‘Gracillimus’
Panicum virgatum varieties
Pennisetum oriental
Phalaris varieities
Sesleria varieties
Sorghastrum mutans
Sporobolus heterolepsis
Stipa tennuissima

elijah-blue ornamental grass

Water Lovers

Acorus varieties
Arundo donax
Carex elata ‘Bowls Golden’
Carex muskingumensis varieties
Carex nigra varieties
Carex pseudocyperus
Carex speciosa ‘The Beatles’
Equisetum varieties
Glyceria maxima  ‘Variegata’
Imperatat cylindrical ‘Red Baron’
Juncus varieties
Phalaris varieties
Typha varieties

Dry Shade Drought Tolerant:

Calamagrostis arundinacca ‘Brachytricha’
Carex oshimensis ‘Evergold’
Carex muskingumensis varieties
Chasmanthium latifolium
Luzula varieties
Phalaris varieties
Sesleria varieties

Shade Tolerant:

Acorus varieties
Arrhenatherum elatius bulbosum ‘Variegatum’
Briza media
Calamagrostis arundianacca varieties
Carex dolichostachys ‘Gold Foundtains’
Carex flagellifera
Carex morrowii varieties
Carex muskingumensis varieties
Carex nigra varieties
Carex oshimensis ‘Evergold’
Carex pseudocyperus
Carex speciosa ‘The Beatles’
Chasmanthium latifolium
Deschampsia caespitosa varieties
Equisetum varieties
Hakonechloa varieties
Luzula varieties
Milleum effusum ‘Aureum’
Molinia varieites
Ophiopogon nigresence
Phalaris varieties
Schoenplectus tabernaemontani “Albescens’
Sesleria varieties

golden-bowl ornamental grass

Deer Resistant:

Fenneca varieties
Miscanthus varieties
Pennisetum varieties

Salt Tolerant:

Elymus magellanicus
Leymsu arenarius ‘Findhorn’
Panicum virgatum varieties
Phalaris varieties
Sporobolus heterolepsis

Grasses for Cut Flowers:

Arundo donax varieties
Briza media
Chasmanthium latifolium
Coradaria Varieties
Miscanthus varieties
Panicum virgatum varieties
Pennisetum varieties

In Part 3 of our Ornamental Grasses and Companion Planting article, we’ll feature ways to use grasses in containers.  In the meantime, here is some more reading:

Books worth looking at:

The Color Encylopedia of Ornamental Grasses – Rick Dark – Timber Press

The Encylopedia of Ornamental Grasses – John Greenlee – Rodale Gardening

Landscaping with Ornamental Grasses – Sunset Books

Plant Finder’s Guide to Ornamental Grasses – Martin Quinn & Catherine MacLeod – Whitecap

Heritage Perennials Perennial Gardening Guide  – John Valleau – Heritage Perennials

Grasses – Nancy J. Ondra – Storey Books

A Place in the Rain – Michael Lascelle – Whitecap

Gardening with Grasses – Michael King & Piet Oudolf – Timber Press

Bold Romantic Gardens – Wolfgang Oehme & James Van Sweden – Spacemaker


Grasses and Companion Planting


There has never been a better time to explore the beauty of ornamental grasses.


With so many varieties available, there is an ornamental grass for every location, from full sun to shade, as well as for shallow or poor soils.

By incorporating ornamental grasses into your landscape you are adding form, texture, scale, colour (from flowers as well as foliage) and movement.  They can also be very luminous and translucent.

We are always looking for plants that offer year round interest as well as being relatively low maintenance. Most ornamental grasses fit the bill. They’re not water hogs, heavy feeders or prone to suffer from pests and diseases. They require little more than an annual trim.

Understanding Cool and Warm Season Grasses:

Cool season grasses:

Actively grow between temperatures above freezing and up to mid 20 degrees Celsius.

Are mostly evergreen (a few are deciduous)

Are mostly low growers up to 2 feet in height.

Mostly flower late winter to early summer.

Warm Season Grasses:

These grasses need warm soil to get growing in Spring.

They grow best when temperatures are over 24 degrees Celsius.

Die back to dormant buds beneath soil surface in the Fall.

Mostly taller growers between 2 to 8 feet, but some get as high as 15 feet.

Start flowering mid-summer to first frost.

Ornamental Grass Growing Tips:

Cut back cool season grasses by no more than two-thirds in early spring (February – March) as new growth starts. Here in the Lower Mainland, you can also lightly trim in September to remove sun burnt foliage. Cool season grasses rarely tolerate being cut back hard.

Removing old dead foliage can be done in several ways: raked out with a fine lawn rake, or by running fingers through the foliage starting from the crown up. This works well when you wear rubber gloves.  If you have just trimmed the grass, then rubbing your palm across the top of the trimmed grass usually dislodges dead foliage.

Warm season grasses can be cut back to the ground after the first killing frosts, but most gardeners prefer to leave the dead foliage for winter interest. They therefore only cut them back just before, or as they start to throw out new shoots from March to early April.


If in doubt as to whether your ornamental grass is cool or warm season, the rule of thumb is that if there is still color in the foliage (it’s not all dried and dead) after the first killing frost, then it’s probably a cool season grass and could be cut back to about a half to two-thirds.  If all the foliage has died back to ground level and is dried and straw looking, then it’s a warm season grass and can be cut back to ground level ie. 2 – 3 inches.

Take a bit of time planning where in your garden you’re going to locate your warm season grasses as most have highly luminous foliage and flowers. They will look fantastic when backlit, so plant them where they catch early morning or evening sun for best effect, or to the south of the garden.

A common problem when planting is planting too deep as many grasses will suffer or even die if planted this way. Plant to the same soil level as it is in the container. Also, if mulching, do not choke the crown. Taper the mulch down so that there is no mulch touching the crown.

Ornamental grasses rarely require staking. Most are clump forming and they’re not heavy feeders, so require no additional fertilizer.

When dividing ornamental grasses, I recommend that with warm season grasses that you divide them every 3 – 5 years to avoid the center of the plant from dying out. It’s best to do this in early Spring, or at the latest as new shoots emerge from the ground.  Dig out the very compact root ball and divide into quarters with a sharp spade or old axe.  Then replant to the original soil depth.

It is not crucial to divide cool season grasses but I recommend that they also be divided every 2 – 3 years to get best results. Divide them in the same as warm season grasses and approximately the same time – just as new growth starts.

If deer eat your plants, look at planting Festuca, Miscanthus and Pennisetum varieties.

Use ornamental grasses as cut flowers.

To get best results from cut flower ornamental grasses, cut before the flower has fully opened.  The flowers will generally last a couple of weeks in water. After that, drain off the water and let them dry. They will make an excellent dried arrangement that will look good for over a year.

In our next article on grasses we will share the best grasses for specific environmental conditions.




Want Fall Colour? A few good choices

You can enjoy Fall Colour with these versatile plants.

When you think ‘Fall’, usually you also think of the rich warm foliage colours as leaves turn from their summer green to shades of orange, brown, russet and purple.  But you don’t usually think of flowers.  The good news is that you can still enjoy gorgeous flowers even in Fall, and yes, even in cool, wet, south west  British Columbia.

Here are a few of recommendations:

sedum pure joy

Sedum: pure joy


Sedum: Maestro




Anytime Pansiolas


Cheyenne Sky Ornamental Grass


Summerific Perennial Hibiscus

Asters, hardy Mums, fall flowering Sedums, Heuchera or Coral Bells, ornamental grasses, perennial Hibiscus and Pansiolas are all great choices to bring cheerful colour to your garden during the months when the summer blooms are fading and branches begin to look a little bedraggled and bare.

Hydrangea IncrediballFall Flowering Shrubs

If flowers aren’t your thing and you prefer shrubs, then consider the Hydrangea.  There’s a reason that they’re so popular.  They’re easy to grow and they can take a wide variety of climatic conditions from full sun and heat to drought to cooler temperatures common here during Fall.  The added bonus is that not only are they extremely forgiving and low maintenance, they’re also very showy with gorgeous abundant blooms during the summer right through into the Fall.

Unlike flower blooms which tend to fade as they age, some varieties of hydrangea such as “Firelight” and “Bobo” change color with the seasons and look wonderful as they do.

Even better, you can cut the blooms for drying so that you can enjoy them all winter long indoors.


Hydrangea Firelight


Hydrangea Bobo

Hydrangea Blue Jangles Fall Color

Hydrangea Blue Jangles

Hydrangea Diva Fall Color

Hydrangea Diva

If you don’t see anything here that appeals to you, we have more choices in the garden centre, so feel free to stop by and ask us to show you what’s available.  Fall is a great time to plant!