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Grassing It Over


By AndrewR


After the item about grasses on last night’s “Gardener’s World”, I thought it might be timely to show some of the ones in my garden just now. Needless to say, the recent heavy rains have spoiled their display to some extent but I think most of them stood up to the weather pretty well.

Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’ is one of the ones featured on the program and I would not be without it. It is very upright, reaching six feet tall but only two across and the seedheads start to form quite early in the summer. It prefers a good, humusy soil in sun or part shade but will tolerate all but the poorest conditions underfoot. A very exposed position would probably knock it down but it copes quite happily in moderate winds when supported by other plants around it.

Chasmanthium latifolium also has an upright habit, typically reaching three to four feet. The leaves are quite broad for a grass and the rustling sound in the wind is a lower pitch than the finer ones. It tolerates sun or light shade, even growing in light woodland.

Deschampsia ‘Northern Lights’ has suffered from the recent wet, and is looking a bit bedraggled now. Again, it reaches three to four feet in ‘flower’ and takes sun or part shade in a soil that is not too dry. I find the leaves on this one start to die off earlier than most.

Festuca ‘Elijah Blue’ is a named variety of festuca glauca, reaching no more than a foot tall and across. Give this one full sun in dry to average soils – it does not like waterlogged conditions.

Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’ would probably be more popular if you could pronounce it! It prefers part shade to bring out the best variegation and is pretty tolerant as regards soil. It makes an excellent feature in a pot, growing just over a foot across and high, and takes periods of drought in its stride.

Hakonechloa macra ‘Naomi’ is another form of the same grass. The red tints are evident from early in the season and get more pronounced as the year progresses. It is growing here in front of berberis thunbergia ‘Rose Glow’ with euonymus fortunei ‘Blondy’ to one side.

Bowles Golden Grass, or milium effusum ‘Aureum’ to give it is Latin name, grows in damp shade and flowers in late spring. It can colonise large areas with its seedlings so beware of it swamping delicate woodland treasures. But it is good at lighting up dark corners as the colour is a pale yellow-green right from the word ‘go’. Reaches a couple of feet tall and half that in width.

Panicum virgatum ‘Heavy Metal’ is another upright grass, reaching three feet. It needs full sun to show itself at its best when the leaves are a good glaucous blue. This is another one that starts to flower early; later the whole plant turns yellow for the winter. Panicum virgatum ‘Rehbraun’ is similar although not so ‘blue’ but carries red streaks in the foliage late in the season.

Phalaris arundinacea ‘Picta’, commonly known as ‘Gardener’s Garters’ has loved this summer, preferring a moist soil in sun or part shade and reaching three feet in height. It is in the ‘thug’ category, spreading rapidly at the root. I grow it in a planting basket in a corner of my pond, where it needs dividing every two to three years.

Stipa tenuissima is possibly the best known of all grasses. Starting green, it gradually fades to a straw colour as the season progresses while retaining its softness to the touch. Likes a light soil in sun but quite happily self-sows into light shade. Height is no more than a couple of feet.

Finally, another coloured grass – uncinia uncinata ‘Rubra.’ This gets barely a foot tall in sun or part shade in a humusy soil. I have also found seedlings in shade on clay but these tend to get taller reaching for the light, often carrying a lot of dead growth at the base.

Grasses are very popular just now and I hope this has given you some ideas on how to include some in your own gardens.

More blog posts by AndrewR

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You have some lovely ones there, I love grasses too..

29 Sep, 2012


Hi Andrew .. lots of useful info there :o)

29 Sep, 2012


very nice Andrew, i love my grasses,great blog with good info cheers.. :-)

29 Sep, 2012


Thanks for this Andrew, I'm a real fan of grasses and rushes. I'm really pleased with the two I've just bought, Hakonechloa macra albo striata.....and an Acorus gramineus, both planted in tubs, I love the movement they add to the garden. You've a smashing selection there, my festucas seem to do better in damp shade, not seeding so well, but keeping their colour, all except 'intense blue' which needs the sun to bring out its turquoise shade. I'm hoping this next year to add more, the red tinted Naomi, and a fountain grass......

29 Sep, 2012


Still havent got round to including many grasses in the garden. you are definitely tempting me with your lovely specimens.

29 Sep, 2012


Some lovely specimens there Andrew. I've just got into grasses this year and have bought a couple.
Hakonechloa or as I call it Hakodohdah - is top of my list.
I've had Uncinia in the garden since last year and it wasn't 'doing' it for me up until it produced it's flowers - I like it now.
thanks for sharing

29 Sep, 2012


Thanks for doing this blog Andrew, have added it to my favourites as I'm wanting to get some more grasses for a border I'm going to plant up soon/early next year so this info will be very helpful!

29 Sep, 2012


We have been grass lovers for many years, would not like to have a garden without them now, my favourite is still Stipa Gigantea and our massive Arundo Donax variegata, which has gone mad in all this wet!! great blog Andrew.

30 Sep, 2012

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