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Northwest Gardening: Basic Black and Classic Gold Grass

Brought to you by Lowe's Creative Ideas

Like that little black dress that makes a good impression anyplace it goes, black mondo grass (Ophiopogon japonicus) is the blade for the shade when a situation calls for something rich and classy.

black mondo grass in Northwest garden

This summer I choose black mondo as the exclamation point at the end of my white flower story—quite the dramatic ending. It also happened to be the spot where no other plant dared to grow due to a persistent mole and its underground railroad. Of all my perennials and annuals, black mondo grass seems the least bothered by moles. Must be the thick, bulblike roots that allow this grass to survive repeated underground damage.

Another great place to use the dark-black foliage of this liriope grass is next to contrasting foliage plants. Yellow creeping Jenny, white Nancy lamium and even the dark-green leaves of a hellebore plant all look great with a bit of black peeking from below. Like a tease of black lace lingerie, black mondo grass is an unexpected surprise poking out every now and then in the petticoat zone of other plants.

Japanese forest grass

Although black mondo grass always looks great and holds its color all winter long, there is another colorful ornamental grass that dies back each winter but is oh, so graceful in the summer months. Japanese forest grass (Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’) boasts bright-yellow foliage that warms my shaded garden like waves of sunshine.

Use this graceful, blonde beauty to spill over the boundaries of a bed or to soften the corners of a square design. But you also can contain your enthusiasm for this ornamental grass by plunking one plant into a large pot and watching it grow, expand and overflow the sides of the container.

Although Japanese forest grass will disappear each winter, it comes back with a gold rush every spring—perfect as a potted perennial that will celebrate years of golden anniversaries.

What grasses grace your garden?