Just as certain dresses don't look like much on the hanger, grasses don't look like much in nursery pots. So it's hard to visualize how to use them until you see mature plants in the ground.
The best place for that is at John Greenlee's nursery in Pomona. Though he is a wholesaler, Greenlee allows group tours by appointment.
Greenlee's descriptive catalogue is also handy to have on hand when you visit regular retail nurseries. It lists the mature height, flower color, foliage change and water and sun/shade requirements of many ornamental grasses, and suggests possible uses for each. The cost is $5.
To make an appointment or order a catalogue, contact Greenlee at Greenlee Nursery, 301 E. Franklin Ave., Pomona, Calif. 91766, (714) 629-9045.
The city of Huntington Beach has planted an experimental garden in Huntington Central Park that contains a number of ornamental grasses, including Japanese blood grass, blue oat grass, feather reed grass, red pennisetum, dwarf pampas and porcupine grass (Miscanthus sinensis strictus). The garden is north of Huntington Central Park, at 7111 Talbert Ave.
There are also a number of books on ornamental grasses with ample pictures that might prove helpful. Two good ones are: "Ornamental Grasses: The Amber Wave," by Carole Ottesen ($29.95, McGraw-Hill Publishing), and "Ornamental Grass Gardening: Design Ideas, Functions and Effects," by Thomas A. Reinhardt, Martina Reinhardt and Mark Moskowitz ($19.95, HPBooks).