Friday 8th October 2021

Great Dixter might have a fab Plant Fair, but our Little Dixter has fab plant fare

Check it out

Plant Ident.

From late summer to autumn, Ornamental Grasses come into their own. They provide tranquillity and calm, colour and movement, structure, texture and sound. Some are light and wifty-wafty, whilst others are dense and authoritative. Like many politicians. Belonging to the Poaceaea or Gramineae family, there really is a Grass for every type of garden.

But, beware. Once bitten by the bug, you’re a gonner. As is all your pocket money.

Stipa tenuissima ‘Wind Whispers’

Also known as Mexican Feather Grass, this is a deciduous, perennial grass which produces tactile plumes from early summer. The plumes start pale greeny-white but become progressively blonder as they age. Looks good through the winter. Can be cut back in early spring which results in fresh green growth, but can also be left. Benefits from a comb-through to remove dead material. Likes full sun to part shade; hates wet, frozen soil. Ht. 0.6 m. Award of Garden Merit. Hem hem.

And look what happens if you plant them in quantity…

Edging. Structure. Movement. Softness. Texture. Beauty. Light. Sound. Wifty-waftiness in abundance.


Hakonechloa macra

Japanese Forest Grass. It has an A.G.M. as well. So there. A perennial Grass which has mounds of bright green leaves topped by airy sprays of green flowers from mid-late summer. The leaves develop autumn tints as the seasons progress; the red-brown coloration lasting through the winter. Copes with most positions, and provides interest over a long period. Ht. 0.5 m. There is also a very desirable lower-growing, golden variety, ‘Aureola’, which is frequently used by garden designers.

Calamagrostis brachytricha

Korean Feather Reed Grass. A.G.M. This genus forms a clump of glossy green, linear leaves which turn yellow in the autumn. Purple-tinged sprays of flower heads open in late summer/early autumn and continue into the winter. The Beth Chatto website describes them as being like elegant bottle brushes, providing “a fine vertical above lower plants”. Most soils; full sun or partial shade; exposed or sheltered. It’s a coper! Propagate by seed or division in mid-spring. Ht. 1-1.5 m

Miscanthus nepalensis

Himalayan Fairy Grass. Who knew there were fairies in the Himalayas? This plant forms bold clumps of elegant, green leaves. Drooping flowerheads, held above the foliage, develop in the summer; these seedheads persist for several months, providing architectural interest. Not reliably hardy, so may need protection from frosts, although it could be grown in a sizeable pot and sheltered in a greenhouse or conservatory. Full sun. Any soil. Ht. 1m. A.G.M.

Stipa gigantea ‘Gold Fontaene’

This fully hardy Stipa is a firm favourite at Garden House. Known as Giant Feather Grass or Golden Oat Grass, this one is even more beautiful when its inflorescences are lit by the sun. Clump-forming and evergreen, the long, golden panicles of oat-like flowers gradually fade to a buff/straw colour. Architectural and then some. Prefers a light, well-drained soil. Ht. 2.5 – 4 m. A.G.M.

Jobs for the Week

Divide Hostas

Hostas have a good root system and can be divided easily in either spring or autumn. Cut the clump with a knife from the crown down to the base. The re-planted division should recover and grow away well, provided it is kept well-watered. And slug-free. Best to add a layer of grit to the top of the pot to deter the critters.

Divide Stipa gigantea

First, dig up your gigantic Stipa. This will take about 3 days. Rest, recover, then split the plant into smaller divisions.

Once the plants have been divided, they can be tidied up – the leaves combed through and cut back, and the roots shortened. As demonstrated below by the stooping Stipa team –

What a lovely, neat job

And, look! The label is ready to go in too. Marvellous.

Hang on a minute. Can we take a closer look at that label?

Oh, very clever. Our esteemed colleague has made a deliberate mistake to keep us on our mettle. She’s purposely left out those all-important single quotation marks. 50 points to Gryffindor. It should, of course, read: Stipa gigantea ‘Gold Fontaene’.

Ah, those crucial single quotation marks! And they say that punctuation is no longer important.

Take cuttings of Pelargoniums

A particular favourite at Garden House. Some might say an obsession. These are tender perennials, and won’t survive outside over winter. Now is the time to take cuttings, to ensure you have stock for next year. These can be rooted on a heated mat or in a propagator (failing that, try a sunny windowsill), then kept protected under glass or indoors until next year, when all danger of frost has passed. This one is ‘Attar of Roses’, and why wouldn’t you want that?

Empty pots preparatory to The Great Bulb Planting Operation

The big heave-ho begins. This one will run and run. In fact, there are usually so many Tulip bulbs that this (below) is likely to be an imminent Job for the Week….

Hardy annuals

Getting them going now will produce bigger, earlier and more robust plants next year. We do like to get ahead at Garden House.

Prick out seedlings in triplicate

Eyes down for a full propagating tray

Sow more hardy annual seeds. And more.

Cover tiny seeds lightly with vermiculite

We really are motoring!

Prune Rosa ‘Charles de Mills’

He’s one prickly customer is old Charles.

Most Shrub Roses tend to flower best on older stems, so generally they only need a little light pruning to keep them in shape. Prune in late summer/early autumn after flowering. Remove the 3 Ds – dead, damaged and diseased wood, together with any branches which cross one another. Take out any older stems which are causing congestion at the centre of the plant – the aim is to keep it as open as possible. Cut back a few of the leggier stems to around 10 cms; this will encourage new, vigorous growth.

Propagate Succulents

Continue the work started last week. You can never have too many Succulents. Sixty Succulents? Seventy Succulents? More?

Here’s one I did earlier

Check the vegetable beds

Oh, I say!

Work on Dry Bed

Dig, weed ad infinitum

The yellow-hued autumn nature table. Pears and pumpkins?

Oh no, nothing so common, my dear…

Quinces and Cucurbitas

After all, this is Garden House

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