Steps, pavers, concrete slabs or tiles can look very stark and harsh in the garden. A popular landscaping trick is to tone down these areas using one of the varieties of mondo grass (Ophiopogon japonicus). Don visited Bronte House in Sydney, where mondo grass has been used very effectively to soften and add charm to a flight of steps.
Mondo grass is not actually a grass but a lily. This versatile plant can also be used as a border to create a formal look, or as a lawn in areas where there is no traffic. Although it will last for years undisturbed, well-established clumps can be divided and spread round the garden. Mondo grass grows in all areas of Australia.
Mini or dwarf mondo grass (Ophiopogon japonicus ‘Nanus’) is a hardy plant which will tolerate very dry conditions and is frost tolerant. It grows to 75mm (3″) tall. Black mondo (Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’) has purple-black, strap-like leaves. It reaches a height of about 25cm (10″). Giant mondo (Ophiopogon jaburan) has longer, broader leaves with flowering stems up to 60cm (2′) long. It has a weeping habit and is more clump forming than the common mondo. It will only tolerate light frosts. There is also a variegated form (Ophiopogon jaburan ‘Variegatus’).
Although not a mondo grass, blue mingo grass (Themeda australis var. Mingo) could be used to similar effect. It is a tussock-forming Australian native grass with lush blue foliage, 75-100mm (3-4″) tall.
Bronte House in Bronte Road, Bronte in Sydney is open to the public during a series of open days on September 30, October 21 and November 24, 25, 2001. Groups of 25 or more can arrange for a group tour. Phone: (02) 9387 1717.