Try growing: native grasses of the Illawarra

I can't believe I haven't done a post about native grasses before! There are so many local native grasses, over fifty species by my reckoning, and they are diverse enough that they can be used in a wide range of ways in gardens and landscaping. 

Perhaps it's the diversity that's been putting me off: when you think about it the options are huge. There are spreading turf-type grasses that can be mown or left to range free: 

Here's a patch (not technically a lawn) of Pygmy Panic (Panicum pygmaeum), which is an excellent lawn option that copes fairly well with shady conditions. Image by Emma Rooksby.
Here's a clump (not technically a lawn either!) of Saltwater Couch (Sporobolus virginicus), growing in the sandy conditions it prefers.  Image by Harry Rose, reproduced from Flickr under CC BY 2.0.

This image shows a mix of plants in what could be called an overgrown lawn, but is probably not technically a lawn either - more of a meadow! The predominant species though is Weeping Grass (Microlaena stipoides), which can definitely be made into a lawn. Image by Emma Rooksby.
(Aaand it's starting to look like one of the reasons for the delay on this post was the lack of good photos to showcase our amazing local 'lawn-able' grasses as they deserve.)

But back to the topic at hand. There are clumping grasses that can add texture to areas of groundcovers, or soften the line of a path: 

The fabulous (and well-known) Tussock or Tussock Grass (Poa labillardierei), here used as a decorative groundcover beside stairs. Image by Mat Misdale.
I can't resist adding another shot of Tussock, this one showing what great textures its foliage creates when mass-planted. Image by Kath Gadd. All rights reserved. 
This beauty is Barbed Wire Grass (Cymbopogon refractus), a tough clumping grass related to
Lemongrass (though sadly not aromatic!).  Image by Tony Rodd, reproduced from Flickr 

under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
And then there are taller clumpers, some with distinctive and decorative flower- and seed-heads that make them suitable as feature plants: 
Kangaroo Grass (Themeda australis) is a clumping grass whose distinctive flower-heads can reach up to around 1.2m high. It can be used singly or  mass-planted, and will spread by itself (some management may be needed). Image by Kath Gadd. All rights reserved.
Kangaroo Grass can be great as an edging plant in areas where taller species will fit in well. Image by Emma Rooksby.
Large, almost bushy, and with fabulous arching foliage and seed-heads, Stout Bamboo Grass (Austrostipa ramosissima) is a landscaping favourite.These plants were photographed at Wollongong Botanic Garden by Kath Gadd (all rights reserved), looking a bit dry but still healthy.
Many of the species mentioned above can also be used in native meadows (see separate post on this site), grown together and allowed to reach their natural height. They can also be combined with other similar plants, such as sedges or rushes, strap-leaved plants like Spiny-headed Mat-rush (Lomandra longifolia) or Flax-lily (Dianella) species. 

I'm not sure whether to mention inconspicuous grasses, though there are many. And of course there are also lots of almost-weedy-looking grasses, plenty of very-similar-to-each-other grasses and even a couple of allegedly unattractive grasses. The above is probably enough to be getting on with, and most of the species are not too hard to buy locally either, though you might have to ask around a bit on the Saltwater Couch!  Happy growing, and please send me a photo of your native lawn if you have one!!

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