A delicate annual grass often grown for the vase, where the long slender stems and fat fluffy ‘bunny tail’ flowers of Lagurus ovatus are valued in either fresh or dried arrangements...Read more
One of those plants that’s as useful in the vase as in the garden, Panicum elegans ‘Frosted Explosion’ is aptly named…Read more
There’s nothing natural about this meadow-style planting, but the combination so enchanted me when I came across it in the Cottage Garden at Wisley a couple of summers ago that I return repeatedly to this image…Read more
I took myself off to Wisley one afternoon to spend some time with the grasses planted in front of the Lindley Library. This is a wonderful spot in which to appreciate the range and also the spectacle of a masssed planting of ornamental grasses; you can retreat over the lawns of Seven Acres and look back towards the borders, one moment scanning across the aggregated planting and enjoying the whole as a single, dynamic composition, and the next focussing in on the varied forms and textures of individual specimens.
But – true to form – what I particularly wanted to do was to stick my nose right into the plants and get to know some of them, if not intimately, then at least on slightly more familiar terms. And since grasses tend to flower towards the end of the season, finally flinging their flowering stems skywards having spent the first months of the year in various manifestations of hummock, mound or amorphous clump, this was a perfect time of year in which to indulge my wish.
There’s a particular property of certain grasses that I find fascinating, an almost metallic sheen to the flowers which catches the light in such as way that a drift of them planted to catch the low autumn sun will appear to be a diaphonous cloud of spun wire, on which are threaded small beads of the same metal. It’s not particularly easy to capture as a still image, as the gently movement of the stems refracts the light continually and causes the whole to sparkle, adding greatly to the impression. Quite a breathtaking effect, and one I noticed first with Deschampsia cespitosa 'Goldtau'.
|Panicum virgatum 'Heavy Metal'|
|Calamagrostis 'Karl Foerster' in the foreground|
|Miscanthus 'Little Zebra'|
|Miscanthus 'Little Zebra'. A great grass for a smaller space|
|Miscanthus 'Gnome'. Marginally more attractive than its name would suggest|
The first of these, with its long, tapering flowers in shades of light pink, initially gave rise to some confusion as the only label in close proximity proclaimed Molinia caeruliea subsp arundinacea 'Zuneigung', and I was fairly sure it wasn’t that. Subsequent confirmation from persons more knowledgeable than myself verified that that this was, as I’d assumed, Pennisetum 'Fairy Tails' (sometimes available as 'Fairy Tales', rather losing the point of the pun in the cultivar name), which fades to tan and beige later in the season, reaching a height of 1.2m.
|Pennisetum 'Fairy Tails'|
To the utterly charming and most inspiring Marchants Hardy Plants today, a wonderful garden and nursery not far from Lewes in East Sussex. I’d love to give you the exact location but, in spite of printing out instructions from the infernal interweb, we got slightly lost, and spent rather longer getting there than intended.
The small car park was overflowing when we finally arrived, so we pulled up on the roadside just before the entrance, next to an artfully pruned hedge of what I took to be field maple. But what this place specialises in is as fine a selection of home grown herbacious perennials and ornamental grasses as you are likely to find anywhere, and that's what we'd come to see.
Accompanied by the sound of the breeze whispering in two fine willows flanking the entrance to the garden, we descended from a grassy knoll into the beautifully landscaped space, which acts as a showcase for the plants in the nursery. Here inspiration in abundance awaits, from planting combinations suggesting myriad ways in which grasses can be used together with perennials and shrubs, through the soft landscaping of the undulating grassland and creatively shaped hornbeam hedges, to the subtle use of hard landscaping materials. Any questions we had were answered by Graham Gough and his partner, textile designer Lucy Goffin, whose passion and enthusiasm for both plants and garden was clearly evident.
Leaving empty handed was never an option, and we took with us the prettiest, pale pink flowered pelargonium, P. ‘Shannon’ (the stunning, dark maroon flowered P. sidoides was on show but, alas, not on sale this year), and a magnificent willow, Salix purpurea ‘Nancy Saunders’ – all mahogany stems and long, pale, olivey leaves – which I’d spied making a fantastic backdrop to clumps of Stipa gigantea in the garden. Lucy has made the single most creative example of a living willow fence I’ve ever seen from whips of this plant, which we spied as we drove away.
And as for the laurels? I might have missed them, but I’m afraid we didn’t see any. Just a shameless, bad pun to give me a half decent title for a blog post!