After a cutback in early spring to remove browned foliage, new shoots appear in as little as two weeks. Spring's rain and summer's warmth combine for rapid growth. Soon the showy plumes emerge and make the grasses even more appealing. Grasses make the sound of whispers as the blades rub together in the wind. Gardeners and visitors are more likely to notice the breeze and feel cooler in the hot summer.
In fall most grasses hit their peaks, especially muhly grass, with its rosy plumes. In winter most turn golden brown but remain showy. Don't cut the fourth season short, literally. Handsome in the sparse winter landscape or even in the snow, muhly grass has a welcome presence. Then, in late winter cut it down to about 6 inches to remove the browned foliage and prepare the way for new growth.
Movement and fine texture are qualities that set grasses apart and give them the appearance of being soft, especially in contrast to conifers, deciduous trees and shrubs, and flowering annuals and perennials. Don't worry; when used intentionally and artfully, ornamental grasses will not look like weeds in your garden.
They are available in various sizes, beginning with blue fescue at about a foot tall. Most remain 2 to 6 feet, with a few exceptions.
One of the plants in my garden that gets the most comments is the giant miscanthus. I planted it at the bottom of a slope to make the bed appear to remain level. However, when you walk the path and arrive on the path below, the 10-foot-tall clump towers over my husband, just home from work and looking for his wife in the garden.