Variegated moor grass

Ornamental Grasses in the Fall Garden


After an unbelievably dry and sunny fall they are forecasting some rain for the weekend. I took the opportunity to capture some of the ornamental grasses in our front garden before overcast skies steal some of the magic away.

Grasses look good in most applications but I love using them where they are viewed from the east facing west.  The setting sun back lights the grass plumes from behind providing a spectacular show.  When we look out on the garden from our front patio we enjoy a showy glow of mass planted grasses capturing the sunlight in their plumes.

Pennisetum orientale is one of my favorite grasses for its long bloom time (July till November).  Though they prefer full sun, I have it planted in a slightly shaded site here, where it complements the late blooms of Anemone  “Honorine Jobert”.


oriental fountain grass with white anemone

An excellent fall combination; the airy flowers of the fall anemone combine with the light and fluffy plumes of oriental fountain grass

The much taller Pennisetum orientale “Karley Rose” has a rosy glow to the plumes.  It is a cultivar of Pennisetum orientale but tending to be more upright and growing to nearly twice the height (3’ or so).


Oriental fountain grass

This fountain grass grows taller than orientale and has flowers that are rose pink.


Another favorite genus for summer and fall interest are the Molinias.  I photographed Molinia arundinacea ‘Skyracer in the afternoon sunshine.  These are one year old plants so not quite as full as they will be in the future.  The tall stems will provide an excellent screen without blocking the entire view.  They are just beginning to develop the golden straw colour that they take on in fall.  These plants are standing close to 7 feet tall.


Skyracer moor grass

Screening plants for along a walkway. Height is over 7 feet.

Molinia caeruleavariegata’  is a shorter cousin to the giant Skyracer.  The golden stems of this variegated gem are amazing in the late summer and well into fall.  It makes a great grass for a garden with limited space since it spreads slowly.


Variegated moor grass

Molinia variegata makes seems to glow in fall sunshine



Some of the larger grasses work well as individual specimens but I usually plant grasses in groupings of more than five plants.  Grasses occur naturally in masses and I try to mimic that look in the garden too.  The more muted tones of grasses planted in groups serve to provide resting places for the eye as it moves through the garden.


Leave a Reply