Lawns are great if you want your kids to have space to run and play, or space for entertaining and having people over to hang. But the truth is, if you don't need one, they are actually more work for you and less healthy for the environment. And with projects like The Highline front and center in NYC, more people are seeing and appreciating the inherent beauty of ornamental perennial grasses in landscape design.(See Piet Oudolf for more inspiration) You don't have to be a sophisticated designer or "green thumb" to incorporate them into your garden. Here are three types of grasses I think you will love:
The typical lawn grass is one of those things we have taken for granted as the only way to have useable outdoor space that isn't paved. But it is not only a pain (i.e. the mowing factor and irrigation), but they are also unhealthy in terms of fertilizers, weed killers, and not to mention they require sunlight, which many backyards just don't have. Enter: Carex. Carex is a no-mow perennial substitute that does great in shade, and is drought tolerant. It will not have the same tailored look as tight grass lawn, but it's all about what you get used to. I mean, look at men's face's these days. Overgrown is IN.
This delicate perennial grass sways so gracefully in the wind it is hard not to fall in love with it. It is also extremely drought-tolerant. It grows in clumps ranging from 12"-24", and looks beautiful en masse. Great to stabilize a steep slope, and grown well in well-drained soils, but also just beautiful in a planter.
Conditions: Full sun to partial sun
Water needed: Low
Gardenista featured this grass in an entire article and ways to use it.
CALAMAGROSTIS 'KARL FOERSTER'
This really is one of my all time favorite plants, not just favorite ornamental grass. It survives the toughest of environments, has a very strong vertical appearance and is graceful and elegant the wind. It's among the earliest flowering of the grasses, and its is beautiful all year. Deep green blades with extra fluffy sandy fronds with deep purple accents in June. As the seeds mature the flower stalks turn golden and take on the appearance of shafts of wheat. It is an absolute must- have in a garden.
Conditions: Full sun to part shade
Water needed: Moderate
Size: 4'-5' tall and 20"-28" wide
Here is a more in depth look at Calamagrostis by Better Homes & Gardens