Native Grasses can be formal too! - The Plant Hub

Native Grasses can be formal too!

By Admin on 01-04-2019

Minimalism. It’s here to stay. The design of our homes and interiors are more simplistic than they have ever been. It follows that formal garden design is enjoying a resurgence in popularity, invigorated with outdoor living areas and water sculpture. Yes, there is still a place in all our hearts for the flamboyant cottage garden that our grandparents had and part of my garden is still like this. However, the success of the formal eye-catching garden design coupled with modern architecture speaks for itself.

Native Grasses, Strappy Leaf Plants (SLP), and Landscape Sedges certainly have a place in the palette of the formal garden. Too often it is assumed that these plants belong in rustic bush gardens only. Many of these plants have the type of regular form so vital to formal planting schemes. Used well they can provide another dimension of foliage contrast.

Ways of including Grasses, SLP and Landscape Sedges to formal gardens include:

  • · Mass Planting. Specimen trees or large shrubs can be underplanted with Grasses or SLP. Alternatively, the plants can speak for themselves on mass without accompaniment.
  • · Border planting. Pathways, garden edges and retaining walls can all be punctuated with border plantings.
  • · Repetition throughout the garden. Keep it simple by reusing the same plant at intervals throughout the garden.
  • · Specimen planting. Grasses and SLP are in general very symmetrical. This characteristic can be employed to great effect by specimen planting.
  • · Water. Grasses and SLP are fabulous companions to water features. The formal theme can be included in the water itself by planting macrophytes.

To help you get started we have compiled a few planting schemes including the Grasses, SLPs and Landscape Sedges the Gardeners Planthub sell through their website. These can be adapted to a variety of situations depending on garden size and environmental conditions. Obviously, other plants can be integrated into these schemes depending upon individual taste.


Under plant existing trees or new tree plantings with ‘Little Jess’ Dianella to create a visual cool shade escape. Celebrate sunny areas by planting with swathes of Carpobrotus 'Aussie Rambler' and/or No Mown Zoysia. Isolate ‘Tanika' or 'Lime Tuff' Lomandra and/or clipped Westringia topiary balls as specimen plants. Repeat groupings of Poa ‘Eskdale’, ‘Katrinus’ Lomandra and Knobby Club Rush, (Ficinia nodosa), throughout.


Many Australians live in a temperate, frost-free environment. This lends itself to the use of shrubs and trees with ‘mesic’ foliage. In the formal landscape, this includes the clipped English or Japanese Box plants, Lilly Pillies or Camelia of which we are all familiar – I’m sure you have your favourites. Grasses can be successfully paired with these traditional garden mainstays.

One or two large swathes of Pennisetum ‘Rubrum’ or ‘Kingsdale’ Poa will provide colour and foliage contrast. Grassy hedges of Lomandra ‘Lime Tuff’ or 'Tanika' or even ‘Little Jess’ Dianella can be planted right alongside clipped Box (or similar) hedges. Formally enclose garden beds with borders of Lomandra can also look effective. For small garden spaces, ‘Evergreen Baby’ Lomandra provides an alternative to the much utilised Mondo Grass. Isolate single plants of Lomandra ‘Tropic Cascade’ in the garden or in pots to accentuate their form. Gardeners Planthub also cultivates native Westringia which make excellent hedging plants.


Our Cool Season Grasses (CSGs) such as Poa ‘Eskdale’ (suits heavy frost to -10 degrees C) offer a fabulous winter display. Capitalise on the winter beauty of these plants by pairing them with deciduous trees and shrubs to produce a remarkable formal landscape. Border plantings of Lomandra ‘Evergreen Baby’ (to -5 degrees C) will retain a formal structure when much of the garden is asleep, they also look great planted on mass for a formal groundcover. The blue-grey fine arching foliage of Poa ‘Kingsdale' (heavy frost to -10 degrees C) can be used to contrast with other foliage as a mass display.


Water can be used in formal landscapes as a focal point. Water pots and sculptures are the simplest way to do this. Whether in small containers or larger ponds water plants like Grey Sedge or the twisted foliage of Twizzler’ on their own or combined with Soft Twig Rush, (Baumea rubiginosa) will retain formal appeal.

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