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How to trim ornamental grass?

Discussion in 'Landscape Architecture and Design' started by Petr51488, Jul 28, 2008.

  1. Petr51488

    Petr51488 LawnSite Silver Member
    from NJ
    Messages: 2,377

    Quick question. I don't get into landscaping, but more of the maintenance aspect. Shrubs, mulch, etc. Anyways, i have a high end customer who wants her ornamental grasses cut back. Their growing too far out. Can i just get my hedge trimmers and just trim around the outside perimeter of grasses to keep them from growing over other plants and walkways? Just wanted some info before i go ahead and do this. I don't want the grasses to burn if their cut at the wrong time, or way.
  2. Marcos

    Marcos LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,720

    If these ornamental grasses are growing "too far out" from the beds and onto turf etc, then they were without a doubt originally placed too close to the edge of the bed.

    Causes of this could be ignorance at the time of planting, as to how BIG the ornamental grasses will ultimately get at maturity.
    This is especially likely if the customer planted it themselves.

    Or...it could have been sheer greediness:nono: on the part of the original landscaper/ landscape design team, by 'cramming' too many plants into the design, in order to maximize their profit $$$$ from the customer.
    In my opinion...This is, by-and-large, the biggest green-industry scam to hit many a unsuspecting homeowner, country-wide!
    And between, say, 3-6 years later (after the warranty expires of course) it becomes painfully evident to Joe and Jane Bloe that they have to have about every 2nd to 3rd bush yanked out, so that they can even walk through their beds to mulch them !!
  3. Cutter1

    Cutter1 LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,261

    trim the parts hanging over, so basically just go straight up from the root ball, won't hurt them. I wouldn't trim the tops.
  4. Petr51488

    Petr51488 LawnSite Silver Member
    from NJ
    Messages: 2,377

    I would have to agree with you, but just so you know, i wasn't the one who planted them. Scam, maybe, Poor planning, yes. This house is massive.
  5. Petr51488

    Petr51488 LawnSite Silver Member
    from NJ
    Messages: 2,377

    Thanks alot. Just in time. Yea, i was going to skip out on the tops, simply because it wouldnt look good with an even top. Like i said, its just going into other plants, and partially on the lawn because the previous guy never trimmed anything. Thanks again for your post. I was just worried that they might burn if trimmed at the wrong time.
  6. Dreams To Designs

    Dreams To Designs LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,406

    Ornamental grasses should not be trimmed, except for once a year in the spring to cut them back. If they are over grown in their present locations, eliminate, replace or move them. They will only get bigger. If the area receives regular irrigation, grasses will tend to flop over as they don't typically need supplemental irrigation or fertilizer. If they are flopping, try less irrigation and/or fertilizer. If they are just too big for the location, replace them with a more appropriate plant or grass and find a better place for the large grasses.

  7. Mike Fronczak

    Mike Fronczak LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 301

    At the end of the season you could also offer to divide/move it which will help with the problem.
  8. Whitey4

    Whitey4 LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,448

    Scam? I use ornamental grasses in my bed designs, as temporary, inexpensive fillers, designed to be removed as other more expensive ornamentals grow to maturity. They make a new design look "filled in" without overcrowding the new specimen plants. This is something I explain to the customer. if they like the look of the grasses after the garden matures, smaller varieties can be used to repace them.

    Ornamental grasses are cheap.... and they tolerate both splitting and transplanting very well. Once they have outgrown their usefullness in the design, just remove them, and it's certainly not a "scam".
  9. Marcos

    Marcos LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,720

    If you TELL the customer that any given plant's just temporary...and could maybe even be moved to another part of the landscape or whatever, as the section in question 'matures' in size...then you're being totally up-front with them.

    What I'm talking about, Whitey, is a decades-old green industry scheme of purposefully and permanently placing too many plants into too little square footage of bed space, sheerly for the motive of extra profit generation for the landscaper & ldscp designer.
    Homeowners often fall into this trap easily, because they initial don't want to see very many open 'gaps' between bushes, grasses, etc. But within a few years they've got a jungle of a landscape...all growing 'together' in hap-hazard ways.

    Reputable and ethical designers and landscapers will talk to their customers first, and 'plan in' things like small annual beds, bulbs, removable fountains, etc between certain plantings that they know will ultimately gain an incredible amount of 'girth'. That way no one's surprised down the road.
  10. Whitey4

    Whitey4 LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,448

    I have had to hack away at, and transplant many shrubs this year because the designer wanted it to "look full" when he left. Planting mature ornamentals is cost prohibitive, even if you can find them. Yes, a good design includes plants that will outlive their usefulness as the garden matures. Far too many designers just overcrowd new beds.... and in five years they look like chit. Ornamental grasses and some of the things you suggested are a great way to make a young install look full and not sparse.

    No garden bed is a plant and forget.... it's a living thing that changes with time. Regular pruning and updating the design on an anuual basis is a must. For instance, if a customer wants a privacy hedge, I will only plant ornamentals that CAN be bought as mature plants... otherwise, loose one, and the whole thing is shot. Growth hormone apps can also help keep an original design intact without getting overgrown and crowded.

    These are the reasons I tell customers that they should use their LCO (if he's worth his salt) to do the bed designs and installs. He will be there in 5 years from now.... as opposed to the "install only designer".

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