As the larger plantings of deciduous grasses and perennials such as in the Dragon garden or Decennium borders at Knoll are cut down in readiness for the coming seasons impressive re growth, the value of the smaller group of evergreen grasses (botanically actually grass allies and not true grasses), becomes even more apparent. Evergreen grasses as a group tend to be foliage based and more compact than their taller flowering counterparts and are frequently happy in a mix of sun and shade, and wet to dry conditions that the deciduous grasses would not find much to their liking.
Take for example Acorus Ogon which is happy in some sun or shade and from wet to dry soils. At the RHS Garden Hyde Hall (above) it has been used to spectacular effect in what is often quite dry and open conditions. While in the Damp Garden here at Knoll (below), it seems very happy in quite shady and winter damp conditions.
With the same understated beauty of its brighter companion, Acorus Variegatus (below), is similarly durable and is making a great cover in some shade and the heavy soil of RHS Garden Rosemoor.
While Acorus Golden Edge, which is very similar in leaf and habit to Ogon, seems very happy in one of the Rain Gardens at Knoll (below), where it has to cope with periodically flooded and periodically dry conditions.
Carex are another hugely useful group that will cope with a range of conditions in both shade and sun and from very wet to very dry. Of particular value are a group of cultivars, the ‘Ever’ range; such as Everlime, Everglow and Everillo.
Carex Evergold is a rather older selection but has withstood the test of time and remains a superb plant today. At Knoll it is planted under a cinnamon barked myrtle (below), and in spite of the shade and dry conditions it has remained happy for over a decade with virtually no maintenance.
Carex Everest has distinctively white and green stripe leaves which are perhaps at their brightest in some shade and not too wet a soil as can be seen here (below), in the shady dry conditions at the base of an oak at Knoll. Being clump forming early season bulbs and primroses have been planted in amongst the carex for some welcome spring time flower.
More subtly marked than the two above, Carex Everlime (below), can make a great plant for pots and containers, as indeed do most of the evergreens.
While Carex Everglow (below), is different again in foliage detail and offers a most attractive almost apricot colouring at the base of the variegated leaves.
Carex Everillo (below), makes relatively large mounds of bright golden yellow foliage that are especially noticeable in the spring when the nearby later flowering plants have been cut down and the borders look rather bare, albeit only temporarily.
Carex Vanilla Ice (below), is different from the others mentioned above in that it has a slowly spreading rather than clumping nature which makes it especially valuable for dry shady conditions such as close to trees and shrubs. Carex Ice Dance (below Vanilla Ice), is a longer established selection that is similar in habit and durability but with a quieter green and white variegation in comparison with the brighter effect of Vanilla Ice.
The woodrushes tend to make more weed smothering mounds of foliage than many of the carex and will cope with a mix of damp soils and shady conditions that most plants would have difficulty in tolerating. Take for example the wide green leaved Luzula sylvatica or its long established selection Luzula Marginata (below), which has very narrowly white edged green leaves that survive and prosper in some very testing garden conditions.
Luzula Solar Flair is a rather lovely selection (below), that gradually makes durable, long lived mounds of soft golden yellow leaves that appear rather brighter as the days lengthen.
Another long lived and easy care plant is Ophiopogon planiscapus (below) whose leathery strap like leaves gradually make impressive cover in what can be difficult dry and shady places.
And while not exactly green the dark black leaves of Ophiopogon Nigrescens (below), are fairly distinctive whether grown in a border or in a pot.
While last (and certainly not least though possibly smallest), is Ophiopogon japonicus Minor (below), whose tiny foliage is as tough as it larger counterparts and gradually makes very low mounds of miniature foliage.