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Early flowering grasses


By AndrewR


Grasses have become popular in gardens in recent years, especially in prairie or naturalistic plantings. As autumn fades into winter, their colour bleaches out and their skeletons provide winter interest. But there are some that flower before the end of summer and can add interest now.

Stipa tenuissima is fairly well known., growing to around half a metre is reasonably fertile, well-drained soil. Too much feeding makes it grow taller and flop though. Its other drawback is self-seeding, so I cut it back now and make it grow again for an autumn display

Stipa elegantissima is another member of the same family. This has “not been discovered by the horticultural industry” so you are unlikely to find it for sale. But seed can be bought online (from Plant World Seeds or EBAY). Seeds germinate readily so it is probably a self-sower as well. This grows half as tall again as tenuissima in similar growing conditions

You will probably need to use a specialist suppler to source sporobolus heterolepis (Knoll Gardens stock it). This wants an open, sunny spot where it will grow up to a metre in height. If grown in a confined space, such as a sunny courtyard, you may notice it has a scent too

Calamagrostis x acutifolia ‘Karl Foerster’ is a bigger beast, growing to one and a half metres in height. But it is an upright grass with limited spread. I have found it is best to divide it in spring if the clump is becoming too large in order to maintain the upright profile without a large skirt at the base

Planting a row of them also makes an effective screen at the back of a border, especially if the soil is poor to prevent them growing too strongly and falling over

I grow several other grasses that flower later, but these earlier ones help to spread the season of interest

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what a lovely informative blog Andrew. Grasses are really one aspect of my garden planting that I don't have.

30 Jun, 2021


I’ve many grasses now in the garden ..starting to flower/seed heads emerging..they really quite elegant at times in amongst pretty flowers.
Thanks for sharing.

30 Jun, 2021


Your last pic shows how beautiful a row of grasses can be.

30 Jun, 2021


Dereck - my plan is to create a circular border in the autumn and found your blog very helpful. Thank you.

30 Jun, 2021


I do like the Stipas. We had a cat who loved to pounce on them, which was very funny to see...but agree they do self seed a lot. That's an interesting use of grasses as a screen - never seen that done before.

1 Jul, 2021


My cat loves a stipa, Sue! Well, all grasses! She’s a pouncer too!

2 Jul, 2021


Great blog. I like to see planting different from my own garden.

3 Jul, 2021


Lol Kate - fun to watch them pouncing isn't it?

5 Jul, 2021

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