I'm often confused when the height of grasses are mentioned, never knowing whether it's the height of the grass or the height of the flower stems; so can anyone recommend any grasses which will stay compact, upright and grow to just 2-3 feet, but can have flower heads up to 5-6 feet. It would also have to be tolerant of full sun and dry conditions. Cheers.
I have 8 in a row for about 4 years now.
Even now the max spread is about 2ft and the flower/seed heads get to around 5-6ft tall. Regardless of the weather they stand upright.
Maintenance is very easy - just cut the whole lot back to the ground when you see new growth appearing in the spring. They stay bolt upright all over winter too unless there's lots of snow
Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
Stipa gigantea... the Golden Oat.. grass base about 2 feet tall by 3 feet wide with flowering stalks to 8 feet... magnificent, graceful, and beautiful when backlit... as far as I'm concerned there's nothing to beat it in the grass world for drama and grace.. it also flowers early with spikes appearing mid May.. the flower stalks make excellent dried flower arrangements that last for years..
A lesser known Miscanthus... grass to about 3 feet, flowering stems to 5 feet max, with the usual pink sprays cascading somewhat, but oddly they then turn bolt upright, and develop a form similar to the Karl Foerster grass, but shorter.. the foliage also turns bright red in autumn..
Both the above suitable for dry locations, impoverished soils..
The descriptions on the Knoll Gardens online shop are often (not always!) clear about foliage and flowering heights. I've never actually bought from them, which I feel a bit bad about given how much I've used their site as a resource!