Perennial grasses in South Australia: a social perspective

Trevor Nottle, Centre for Horticulture and Sustainable Environments, TAFE, Urrbrae, South Australia 5064, Australia.


As far as gardeners and landscapers are concerned, grasses have a recent history as fashion accessories in horticulture. Until the late 1960s few ornamental grasses were cultivated. However, following design developments in the 1970s in Germany and Holland by Wolfgang Oehme, Piet Oudolf, and later by James van Sweden in the USA, grasses were planted widely in ornamental planting schemes. The demand grew out of three concepts: grid planting, wild meadow gardening and low maintenance gardening in public landscapes. Attracted by the return-to-nature appearance of parks and gardens, private gardeners adopted and adapted the idea and created a demand for many varieties of grasses. This style of garden design, new only in its use of repeated plantings of a set range of plants within a series of grid lines, could be viewed as a modernist reaction to the recent romantic revival of the English flower garden as espoused by Rosemary Verey and Penelope Hobhouse. In Australia, the idea was quickly taken up by several leading landscape design teams for the Sydney Olympics site at Homebush. It was extended to include native grasses, as well as the plants then in use in Europe and North America. The rehabilitation and conservation industry also played a role in building green and grassy awareness, particularly in relation to wetland construction and creek rehabilitation in urban areas. No account of the role played by 19th century Acclimatization Societies is given in this paper despite their considerable impact on the introduction of grassy weeds, mainly with the intention of improving pasture.


Plant Protection Quarterly (2004) 19 (2) 52-53.