In this second of our series on re-vegetative design, we’ll look at the fascinating subject of native grasses for landscaping.
Plumed or spiked, tall and graceful or tufted patches, native grasses can be the accents that produce a glissando or staccato note in the landscape. Watching them sway—or rustle—at the wind’s caress can be soothing or stimulating and, in addition to their great looks, this is one of the characteristics for which they are valued in the symphony we orchestrate with plant life.
Wild in the City
Poor Perth, no grass—or at least none that grows sprig-to-sprig like other grass. There are “grass trees” that look rather not-like-grass. These grass trees have an interesting profile and can no doubt be an accent or feature, but that’s about all there is to talk about when it comes to grass in Perth. There is something though…oh, yes, it’s called Bentonite Clay. This, when mixed with Perth’s sandy soil, will create a substance that makes the soil behave better…more like dirt. With a little of that, we can import some lovely grasses from elsewhere, but not native to Perth. Is that cheating on our original objective? Perhaps we just go with “native” sand as the substitute for native grass in Perth.
But wait. Well would you look at that now. Dune grass. Native to Perth? Yes. Grows in sand? Yes. Translates to poor sandy soil? Let’s see—seems to grow in tufts. How great is that! It would be kind of fun to see if we could re-vegetate dune grass for lawns, wouldn’t it? (Or at the very least, design with drifts of it.) Once it got used to the idea of being a lawn, though, we might even try mowing it—neaten it up a bit. In the meantime, it could serve as an accent element in a fine design. It has a graceful way about it and grows to about 48 cm. or so. Something to think about in your flights-of-fancy design-moments.
In folk lore, fairies dance in mushroom rings. Who do you suppose dances here? This is the tough spiky tussock grass, spinifex, that grows all over and holds the desert down in the Central Australia area and can Alice Springs claim it as a native? Of course. And think of the designs its very unusual growth pattern might inspire. Thick and stiff, the leaves contain a lot of silica— and imagine: their roots can go down 3 meters! They also carry their own water supply. No wonder they can withstand those desert temperature extremes.
With an embarrassment of riches, Sydney is home to several native grasses for landscaping. Topping the list, however, is the graceful Lomandra Tilga, defining paths and weeping over them with leaves that grow to 70 cm. They’re a nice medium green, if there’s a color theme that needs to be observed, and it’s one of those, mentioned earlier, feather-like and soft to the touch. A luscious addition to any design makes it a popular Sydney native.
How we use native grasses for landscaping, then, is a test of our ability to recognise what is so wonderful about them in the first place.
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