Turning Gardens into Painterly Tableaux



A bold stand of native Rudbeckia brings color to the edge of a pond surrounded by a mix of Panicum and other grasses.

With spring’s glories well behind us, the stalwarts of the garden—grasses—are beginning to show their colors. Eric Groft, principal at the venerable Washington, D.C.–based Oehme, van Sweden & Associates, praises their importance in landscape design, particularly in the Hamptons. “Like any other plant or garden component,” he says, “grasses don’t make a garden. But they can add a contrasting element or pull a garden together, contributing to the design overall. A total grass garden would be rather boring.” With his partners at the firm, Groft is carrying forward the innovative work of the company’s late founders, James van Sweden and Wolfgang Oehme, searching out new cultivars, exploring building techniques, and finding new ways of being ecologically sensitive in the landscapes they create. 

Yellow Eremurus, a summer-blooming bulb commonly known as foxtail lily, bursts forth from a bed of Carex in Springs.
Yellow Eremurus, a summer-blooming bulb commonly known as foxtail lily, bursts forth from a bed of Carex in Springs.

A tapestry of flowering perennials, including daylilies and liatris, creates a lush backdrop to a Henry Moore bronze
A tapestry of flowering perennials, including daylilies and liatris, creates a lush backdrop to a Henry Moore bronze

Rudbeckia, Panicum, and Calamagrostis edge a pool at a residence in the Georgica Association.
Rudbeckia, Panicum, and Calamagrostis edge a pool at a residence in the Georgica Association.

Persicaria ‘Firetail’ blends well with Calamagrostis, Carex, and Spartina.
Persicaria ‘Firetail’ blends well with Calamagrostis, Carex, and Spartina. 

Persicaria ‘Firetail’ blends well with Calamagrostis, Carex, and Spartina.
A pocket planting of Nepeta softens hardscaping by a swimming pool.  

A version of this article appeared in the July 15 2015 issue of Hamptons Cottages & Gardens with the headline: Grass Acts.

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