Terrace planters and grasses

(Question)

We have just moved to a condo, on the main floor and we have a west facing terrace which spans about 40′. We were thinking of planting some taller grasses in spots to provide a moderate screen and greenery. (About 3-4′ of screen in 2’3 areas). We’d like the grasses to be at least 4’tall (fence is 4′). Initially we were thinking of pampas grass but it may grow too tall.
1) What type of grasses do you recommend?
2) What type of containers- should we plant them in a long rectangular planter (2′ x3′) or shorter ones side by side?
3) Is it realistic for perennial grasses to survive winters in planters?
Many thanks

(Answer)

Ornamental grasses are a great option for your purpose. One of the first grasses to start growing in the spring, Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’ Feather Reed Grass is a striking tall grass that sways gracefully in the breeze. Its green foliage is 90-120 cm tall; the flowers, which appear in July, are 150-200 cm tall. Its relative, Calamagrostis x acutifolia ‘Avalanche’ Feather Reed grass is variegated with a white stripe, and is narrow in habit. In both plants, the blossoms change color through the season and remain on the plant through winter. They are both drought tolerant, once established and because they will grow happily in zone 3 (Regina), have a good chance of surviving the winter in well insulated, large containers here in Toronto.

I would recommend the largest container you can fit conveniently on your terrace … the more soil around the roots of the plant, the better it will withstand the winter. And it would be a good idea to insulate the containers  on the inside with thick pieces of Styrofoam. If possible, for the winter, move the pots to a sheltered spot, out of wind and sun and up against the wall of the condo. Concrete or wooden planters will withstand freezing, while terra cotta will not. Make sure that your planters allow for excellent drainage; the grasses do not like soggy soil.

Good luck with your lovely natural privacy screen!