Plants, Stone, California Landscapes


Pennisetum and Lomandra


Requests for Mexican Feather Grass are one of the constants of doing landscapes in the Bay Area. I don’t blame anyone for wanting it. It’s stunningly beautiful, especially at the end of the day in the golden hour. But of course it’s also highly invasive. Planting it in your yard essentially means you are planting it in your neighbors’ yards as well. I try not to plant it, and in fact the only time I have planted it in recent years was for a parking strip in an urban part of Berkeley. I warned the client that it would spread to the neighbors’ yards and he pointed out that the neighbors were already growing it. It was hard to argue with that. But, otherwise, when clients request it I try to find an alternative.

This planting is one of my attempts. Instead of a gold-colored grass — PlantRight has a list with several alternatives that are fine plants but not really as graceful or beautiful — I went with the more cream-colored bloom of Pennisetum orientale (a Pennisetum that doesn’t reseed) and a background of Lomandra ‘Breeze’ to keep things looking green in the winter. I had the idea that the two of them together might combine into the equivalent of Mexican Feather Grass. I think they do end up having a little of that vibe. I should be able to get a better photo later in the year when some of the other plants are blooming and when the shrubs have grown a bit more, but this is pretty good for a January photo. Some ‘before’ photos are below.


Someone else had already done some work on the site before I was hired, but his work was turning out rather strange so he was let go. I’m actually a little intrigued by what he did and how he envisioned it turning out. He made some strange choices.


I made the dry pond because he had already bought the river stone; I just mixed in some larger stones to give it more contrast.


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2 Responses to “Pennisetum and Lomandra”

  1. March 16th, 2015 at 7:14 pm

    James says:

    I like your planting with the substitutes. There’s a lomandra up on my roof deck where I often forget to water. The plant doesn’t always look terrific, but it’s tougher than anything else I’ve tried up there.

    Among the read grasses I have a serious affection for the Cal-native Aristida purpurea, which behaves like an only slightly stiffer, red-tinged version of the feather grass. It doth reseed a bit around the garden, though nothing like feathergrass.

  2. April 11th, 2015 at 12:11 pm

    ryan says:

    I want to try the Aristida some time. I’ve pitched it once or twice as a feathergrass substitute, but without successfully convincing the clients. I think I need to get my own photograph of it looking good in a planting and then I’ll have more success pitching it and also feel more confident myself.

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