Grass Garden

Kew exhibited a living grass collection as far back as the early 19th century.

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Grass Garden with Princess of Wales Conservatory in the background

Grass Garden with Princess of Wales Conservatory in the background (Image: Michelle Cleave)

Did you know?

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

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. They 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.

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

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.




6 comments on 'Grass Garden'

Terry Love says

29/05/2013 12:54:40 PM | Report abuse

As a regular visitor to Kew the grasses are one of the things I head for come autumn as this is when they are looking their best for me and my camera. Not only looking good, the benches make a nice resting spot to just sit and listen to the wind rustling through that grasses.


Atlant says

11/10/2012 8:05:36 PM | Report abuse

For your interest: read about the three lines of defence grasses use to fight off herbivores: http://www.micronaut.ch/sidemenu/show/2012-Atlant-Blade-of-Grass/home


Michelle from Kew says

08/11/2011 9:50:13 AM | Report abuse

The new layout of the Grass Garden displays a diverse botanical collection with a strong decorative ethos, which appeals to many visitors, and can be copied at home even on a domestic scale, by simply using bold drifts of large groups, with limited plant types. For example many of the prominent grasses which look great now, are the Summer flowering (warm season) ones: Panicum virgatum ‘Shenandoah’, Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Woodside’ and various Miscanthus sinensis cultivars, which take on fantastic Autumn colours. The US have very good grass nurseries on the West and East coast who will have extensive grasses available for order, as well as good advice on planting. Native Sons of California are a renowned nursery who promote native plants also.


Daniel Slagle says

06/11/2011 10:55:26 PM | Report abuse

We visited on an overcast day in early November. We were in absolute, total awe of this magnificent grass garden. Is there a garden plan that lists the placement and type of the grasses? My dream is to create something similiar in our yard in the US. Thank You!


Digital Media Team says

22/12/2010 11:41:08 AM | Report abuse

Thanks for your comment yoo-jin Kim. We've passed your question on to Kew's Feedback Team and will post the update in this thread.


yoo-jin Kim says

21/12/2010 12:55:42 AM | Report abuse

Hello I have some questions to ask Kew garden. What is the area of grass garden? I'd appreciate your quick reply. Thank you.


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