Skip to main content Skip to navigation

The Grass Garden

A planter bead filled with a variety of grasses
Grass Garden, summer 2014 – photo by Caroline Pearson-Mims


In spring 2013, Luke Vannice (’14), a WSU Landscape Architecture senior, was selected for a CAHNRS-funded internship project. This project involved the designing and installation of Phase 4 of the Display Garden – the Grass Garden.

Vannice was responsible for developing, designing, and installing a garden of ornamental grasses in the existing empty planting beds west of the Shade Garden.

Colored sketch of garden layout
Conceptual drawing of Display Garden by Phil Waite. The Grass Garden is shown in section A. Select to view larger image.

Vannice was asked to design a grass garden with consideration for the Garden’s overall conceptual plan, existing site conditions, environmental sustainability, and its appropriateness in the urban campus landscape.

Barren plant beds
Planting beds and old greenhouse walls before installation of Grass Garden – photo by Luke Vannice

Plant Selection and Design

Prior to planting, Vannice conducted a site inventory and analysis (below). He worked closely with his mentors to research and select potential plants. Vannice was challenged to utilize a relatively limited, yet interesting, plant palette to create a contemporary design.

Drawing of display garden
WSU Display Garden Site Analysis by Luke Vannice, Summer 2013. Select image for larger view.

Vannice designed the planting using site-appropriate perennial plants and small-stature shade trees. Plants were selected for their aesthetic characteristics, lack of potential invasiveness, future maintenance considerations, and local availability. His primary goal was to select plants that would exhibit interesting characteristics in all seasons. Features such as plant shape, color, texture, motion (with wind), and flowering were all considered. Vannice worked with local nurseries to obtain plants and select alternate species and cultivars, if his first choices were unavailable.

Student digging in the plant bed.
Luke Vannice plants trees in Grass Garden – photo by Caroline Pearson-Mims

The Grass Garden utilizes the surrounding lawn irrigation system and requires little supplemental water. Vannice won a Crimson Award (highest honor) for his presentation summarizing his internship in Spring 2014 at the WSU Showcase for Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities (SURCA).

Garden Sections

Display Garden (Main Page)

Grass Garden

Shade Garden

Sun Garden

Waterwise Garden

Grass Garden Plants

(All illustrations © Luke Vannice, 2013)

Illustration of Autumn Brilliance.
Amelanchier x grandiflora ‘Autumn Brilliance’ – Apple serviceberry
Illustration of Blonde Ambition.
Bouteloua gracilis ‘Blonde Ambition’ – Blue grama grass
Illustration of Karl Foerster.
Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’ – Feather reed grass
Illustration of Rubinstern.
Echinacea purpurea `Rubinstern’ – Purple coneflower
Illustration of Saphirsprudel.
Helictotrichon sempervirens `Saphirsprudel’ – Blue oat grass
Illustration of Apricot Sparkles.
Hemerocallis `Apricot Sparkles’ – Daylily
Illustration of Huron Sunrise.
Miscanthus sinensis `Huron Sunrise’ – Maiden grass