Posted: Monday 5 November 2012
by James Alexander-Sinclair
Most grasses are in their prime at this time of year, as they tend to flower late and gradually take on their autumn colours.
I have just come back from Cornwall. It was mostly drizzling and the glorious blue horizons were invisible behind walls of mist, but I suppose that’s the way things crumble. There was one brief burst of sunshine, which just happened to occur while we were walking past a stand of miscanthus grass (pictured above).
It looked pretty darn handsome I thought. This particular variety is, I’m pretty sure, ‘Silver Feather’ - or ‘Silberfeder’ if you prefer the German. (German nurserymen are good on grasses, so many varieties have solid, Teutonic names.) It stands well into the winter and in this case has been planted en masse, not just for effect but also to stop people parking on that bit of ground. A prettier version of orange traffic bollards.
Most grasses are in their prime at this time of year, as they tend to flower late and gradually take on their autumn colours. There are many varieties of miscanthus and they grow well even in damp soil. They are really easy to look after too - just cut them to the ground when they look a bit bedraggled in winter.
These are my favourite miscanthus varieties:
Miscanthus sinensis 'Zebrinus' - this has very distinct leaves with yellow horizontal stripes across them. It looks great with rudbeckias. It grows to about 1.2m high, with flower plumes that reach 1.8m.
Miscanthus sinensis 'Kleine Fontäne' - the name translates as ‘little fountain’, and it’s so called because of the way the leaves erupt and dangle like an iced cascade. It’s one of the earlier flowerers, with fabulous rusty plumes that are like the twisted plaits of sultry redheads. It reaches 1.4m tall.
Miscanthus sinensis 'Yakushima Dwarf' - as its name implies, this variety is a bit shorter than most. It works well in pots with cosmos or Verbena bonariensis and grows to just 50cm high.
Miscanthus x giganteus - this one’s at the opposite extreme (the clue is, again, in the name). It’s a monster for the larger garden, with wide, sword-shaped leaves and flower spikes that reach over 3m tall. It lasts longer into the winter if kept out of strong winds.