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Grass Garden

Kew has exhibited a living grass collection as far back as the early 19th century.
Grass Garden with Princess of Wales Conservatory in the background

About the Grass Garden

The present Grass Garden, located between the Duke’s Garden and the Davies Alpine House, was created in 1982 to showcase some of the world’s 9,000 species of grass. 

Scientists estimate that grasses make up 20 per cent of the Earth’s vegetation. Kew’s display contains some 550 species and the collection is still growing. Specimens range from delicate clumps of feathery Hordeum hystrix to tall stands of the Korean feather reed grass Calamagrostis brachytricha

The grasses are cut back in February and this is when clumps are divided and replanted. By early summer they are in full growth and beginning to flower. It is from late summer and on into winter that the Grass Garden looks its best, with feathery seedheads that catch the light of the low sun and leaves turning shades of yellow and bronze.

Things to look out for

The sculpture 'A Sower', depicting a man flinging seed, stands in the Grass Garden. It was cast by Hamo Thornycroft in 1886 and presented to Kew by the Royal Academy of Arts. Its pedestal was designed by Sir Edwn Lutyens and A. Drury.

You can see a range of bamboos, which are members of the grass family, in the Bamboo Garden located around the Japanese Minka House on the western side of Kew.

Cultivation and uses

Grasses are some of the world’s most economically important plants, providing us with cereals such as wheat, rice and barley to eat, as well as cattle fodder. Grasses form the basis for many alcoholic drinks and are widely used around the globe for creating structures and providing thatch for buildings.

Increasingly, grasses are being used as sources of renewable energy. For example, sugar cane (Saccharum officinarum) is widely used to make ethanol to power road vehicles in Brazil. In 2008, Brazil produced 24 billion litres of fuel in this way.

Kew scientists are currently investigating the use of the popular ornamental plant zebra grass (Miscanthus sinensis) as an alternative fuel source.

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