Friday 11th September 2020

It’s September. We’re back! Sharpened pencils at the ready; new pencil cases; pristine notebooks; clean fingernails. All ready to set off on a new horticultural year at Garden House. Happy days.

Some changes, due to the Challenging Times we’re living in. We meet in smaller, socially-distanced groups. We are experts in Health and Safety and can discuss the pros and cons of any number of hand sanitisers with you. Mask fashionistas too: it’s a veritable Venetian Carnival here. Plus, our briefcases are choc full of tools, gloves, snips, secateurs, shears, hair clippers… (oh, wrong tool) and cake. Everything needs to be clearly labelled. Like so…

There are plans afoot to create a dry garden area in view of the current need to conserve water. This will mean researching drought tolerant plants and how to further improve soil to aid water retention. Other items on the menu for this year’s curriculum will be lawn care, pruning, plant identification, ideas for planting combinations, taking cuttings. A heated propagator would be a good addition to one’s home gardening kit, for obvious reasons.

Plant ident .

This week the topic was grasses, which belong to the Poaceae family. A fabulous addition to any planting, there are grasses for all shapes and sizes of garden, providing interest for much of the year. Colour, movement, structure – they have it all – as well as being extremely tactile. And as for susurration? My dear, they’re a must. Being wind-pollinated, they don’t need flowers to attract pollinators.

Pennisetum macrourum

African Feather Grass grows to around 1.5 m and looks great in a dry, sunny position, providing a strong vertical statement in the border. Hardy, but not evergreen, it carries long, compact, soft cream flower heads over clumps of grass-like leaves from late summer to autumn. A.G.M.

Miscanthus sinensis ‘Ferner Osten’

The slender, narrow leaves of this ornamental grass hold spectacular dark red plumes aloft from summer to late autumn. The leaves themselves also colour to copper and red. Deciduous, but maintains interest through the winter months. Cut back hard in February/March as the new growth starts to appear. Grows to around 1.8 m and is best in a sunny, open position with plenty of space to display its magnificence. A.G.M.

Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’

A much smaller grass, but equally eye-catching, with vivid bright yellow/green striped leaves. Grows to about 35 cms. Deciduous and fully hardy. Has a modern minimalist vibe, and looks great in planters as well as at the front of the border or as an under-planting. Best in sun or part shade in moist, well-drained soil. A.G.M.

Anemanthele lessoniana

Try saying that with a mouthful of cake. A wonderfully ornamental wind grass, providing interest throughout the year. Initially emerging green, the foliage later colours with streaks of red, orange and yellow. Likes full sun/partial shade and moist but well-drained soil. Evergreen. Comb its hair through in the spring (we should all be experts in this by now) to remove dead grass. Divisions can be made in spring/early summer. Grows to about 1 m. A.G.M.

Stipa tenuissima ‘Wind Whispers’

Taller than the general species, growing to around 90 cms, the fine hairy leaves of this Stipa waft gently in the breeze. Best grown in quantity to reveal its graceful elegance. Hardy and poetic.

Stipa gigantea

It’s a big ‘un. And an all-time Garden House favourite. The spectacular Oat Grass can grow to 2.5 m. Not so much a statement, more an exclamation. Arching stems of golden oat-like flower heads shimmer in the sunlight, floating above slender grey-green foliage. Majestic. Grow one as a specimen plant – or several if you have the space. A.G.M.

Jobs for the week

Easing us in gently, the main task this week was weeding. Just to make sure we could remember the difference between plants to go and plants to keep. Green trugs for compostable refuse. Black trugs for bad thugs.

Others were set to cutting back shrubs. And they set-to with vigour.

A second summer

It’s hot stuff

It’s good to be back

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