If you have cool soil, fill out your borders quickly by planting miscanthus. This is a fashionable grass, particularly the variety that has striped foliage (Miscanthus sinensis 'Zebrinus'), and it forms tall ornamental clumps. Use it as a focal point or as an attractive windbreak at the back of a border.
Distinctive ground cover:
Plant ophiopogon at the base of your perennials and shrubs planted in planters for an attractive way of concealing the edges of the planters. Ophiopogon planiscapus 'Nigrescens', an unusual-looking plant with narrow black leaves that form dense waves across the ground, retains its intensity all year round. It looks like a dwarf grass at only 15-25cm tall, but it is in fact a member of the lily family, and you can use it anywhere, even in small planters.
Grasses to stabilise slopes: Choose aquatic grass (Glyceria maxima) for the edges of a pond or river. It stabilises sloping ground and tolerates its roots being submerged in 20cm of water. This hardy plant grows to a height of 80cm and spreads rapidly by rhizomes.
This vigorous bamboo has bold clumps of arching green canes carrying lush, shiny green foliage. It may grow extremely tall in warm, sheltered conditions.
Soft Shield Fern
A lovely evergreen or, in severe winters, semi-evergreen fern forming dense clumps of finely divided, rich green fronds, pale and scaly when young. Dislikes dry soils.
Particularly suited to small gardens, this bamboo forms compact clumps of upright, slender canes that are all densely crowded with relatively broad pointed leaves.
Grasses for wet soils: Most varieties of evergreen carex, molinia (Molinia caerulea), and graceful tussock grass (Deschampsia cespitosa) form dense clumps that eventually cover heavy, wet or boggy soils.
Places where nothing will grow: Hakonechloa macra, one of the most ornamental members of the Gramineae family, is a good choice for shady town gardens and areas under trees, since it forms a dense carpet of variegated leaves. The deciduous foliage of luzula, part of the rush family, does wonders at the foot of trees where nothing else will thrive. Luzula nivea produces frothy white heads in midsummer.
Exotic windbreaks: Medium and large bamboos form excellent windbreaks, whether you plant groves, isolated clumps or hedges. Create a noise-reducing screen by planting two rows of species whose slender stems are completely covered in leaves, such as Phyllostachys flexuosa and P. nigra.
Natural wonders: Dwarf bamboo species cover slopes, stabilise loose soil and tolerate areas where grass would require too much attention. Clip the smallest varieties, such as Pleioblastus pygmaeus var. distichus, twice a year. Leave the others to grow thicker unaided. Their irrepressible vigour makes them ideal for inaccessible areas.
Elegant screens: For a balcony or patio, choose frost-hardy bamboo varieties that will not exceed three metres high. Species with moderately vigorous rhizomes are also suitable if planted in sturdy planters made of wood, brick or concrete. Their rhizomes are so strong that they can split plastic planters.