Native Grasses can be formal too!

By Admin on 18-06-2014

Minimalism. It’s here to stay. Design of our homes and interiors are more simplistic than they have ever been. It follows that formal garden design is enjoying unprecedented 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. 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 regular form so vital in a formal planting. Used well they can provide another dimension of foliage contrast.

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

  • · Mass Planting. Specimen trees or large shrubs can be under planted with Grasses or SLP. Alternatively the plants can speak for themselves on mass without accompanyment.
  • · 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 Bluedale produce. 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 caerulea to create a visual cool shade escape. Celebrate sunny areas by planting with swathes of Carpobrotus glaucescens and/or Zoysia macrantha. Isolate ‘Nyalla’ Lomandra and/or clipped Westringia fruiticosa as specimen plants. Repeat groupings of ‘Eskadale’ Poa, ‘Katrinus’ Lomandra and Isolephis nodosa throughout. Depending on application include borders of ‘Aranda’ Dianella.



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 Buxus, Syzygium and Camelia of which we are all familiar – I’m sure you have your favourites. Grasses and SLP can be successfully paired with these traditional garden mainstays.

One or 2 large swathes of ‘Rubrum’ Pennisetum or ‘Kingsdale’ Poa will provide colour and foliage contrast. Hedges of ‘Nyalla’ Lomandra or even ‘Aranda’ Dianella can be planted right alongside clipped Buxus (or similar) hedges. Formally enclose garden beds with borders of ‘Katrinus’ Lomandra. For small garden spaces ‘Erindale’ Lomandra provides an alternative to the much utilised Mondo Grass. Isolate single plants of ‘Tropicbelle’ Lomandra hysterix LHCOM in the garden or in pots to accentuate form. Bluedale also cultivates Westringia fruiticosa – an excellent hedging shrub.



Our Cool Season Grasses (CSGs) such as Poa labillardieri ‘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 ‘Aranda’ Dianella (to -5 degrees C) will retain a formal structure when much of the garden is asleep. Mass plant ‘Erindale’ Lomandra for a formal groundcover (will handle cold to -5 degrees C). The blue grey fine arching foliage of ‘Kingsdale’ Poa (heavy frost to -10 degrees C) can be used to contrast with other foliage as a mass display.



If you would like to add some blue foliage contrast to your formal garden - Bluedale offers 4 Grass and SLP alternatives. Our ‘Kingsdale’ Poa, ‘Eskdale’ Poa and ‘Wingarra’ Lomandra will all provide excellent foliage colour contrast. The Poa’s produce a fabulous display as a mass planting. ‘Shara’ Lomandra and ‘Wingarra’ Lomandra both make excellent borders and garden edges.



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 Lepironia articulata or ‘Twizzler’ Lepironia on their own or combined with Baumea rubiginosa will retain formal appeal.

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