Grasses Get it Right

I’m always happy when someone else is onto what I’m onto, after decades in my field and observing what works or doesn’t, all over.

One of the best uses of ornamental grasses – where the mature size won’t likely overgrow the space or pose a safety / visibility hazard – is where there’s foot traffic. Of course, considerations for being exposed to temperature extremes (including reflected heat) is key in selecting a species.

Photos from Albuquerque’s ABQ Uptown, 11/10/2013 –

just yards up the same sidewalk from the last post’s over-planted layers…Deergrass / Muhlenbergia rigens, just able to fit nearing maturity (young Chinese Pistache lost leaves rather early)

more Deergrass, like a lush and more flowing version of the lawn that would have been used in this spot 15+ years ago…with Chaste Tree / Vitex agnus-castus
more young Deergrass and Pistache trees, throughout the parking lot islands…more useful than too small of parking lot islands or tree “diamond” planters

5 Replies to “Grasses Get it Right”

  1. Diggin’ that deer grass! I have not seen it around here…maybe I am not looking hard enough?!?!?!?!

    Like a big, grass mound. As CTG Daphne might say, “that’s a western plant.”


  2. I have just recently become enamored with grasses, and am anxious to learn more about them. They can be very tactile, and the thought of people walking by, holding out their hand to brush them, makes me smile.

    Nice; there are quite a few grasses for many situations. I do like their ability to sway to the touch…lower ones can nicely soften up roses and spiky plants, too!


  3. I really like all the native grasses. My plan is to plant more of them here.
    AND…the deer don’t eat them. My favorite kind of plant.

    Yes, and the key is to find which do well in certain kinds of light near those nice oaks. I am amazed that some of our desert species range right up to your area, before stopping.


  4. Hi David,
    First time commenting here after months of following your current and former blog. I’m a fan. This post got me wondering something— why don’t I see more Muhlenbergia emersleyi in these types of settings? When I see each together in the wild, M. rigens is invariably low in a drainage, with M. emersleyi growing in the drier adjacent uplands. Curious about your perspective on this.


    Thanks for finding my new blog! Are you in Tucson? Good question; others and I are sometimes guilty of using the same plants, when a few others are available that might work better (in desert dryness). Both muhleys are native in the low mountains of the Chihuahuan Desert up to Abq, and the M. rigens does like more water. M. emersleyi’s form is similar but smaller, and seedhead is different, but time to use it…a nice planting of it at The Capri in Marfa, too.


  5. I like viewing these emptied parking lots. It is good practice to envision negative space. Allowing for that here has been hard (which stumps, because I always appreciate it when I see it elsewhere). It seems to boil down to difficulty getting past my original infatuation with the idea of recreating a cottage garden look with native plants in combination with having been seduced by blooms for so long. I’m ashamed to admit how slow I have been to see the beauty in grasses.

    Though that negative space is before the grasses mature. But at least room for it all to mature. Interesting – I embraced grasses once I drove across the great plains all through college – the native right-of-ways were nicer than the plowed fields. And since you’re on the prairie / savannah, it’s natural!


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