Ex­pert’s choice

Of­fer­ing re­li­able struc­ture, colour and move­ment, this grass is a boon to any gar­den, says Gra­ham Rice

Gardeners' World - - Contents -

Mar­vel­lous mis­cant­hus

Or­na­men­tal grasses seem to prompt two dif­fer­ent re­ac­tions. On the one hand, their ele­gance, unique colouring, dis­tinc­tive habit and the way they meld to­gether hap­pily with so many other plants, cre­ate in­stant ap­peal, but some peo­ple worry they might take over the gar­den and smother favourite plants. These mis­cant­hus bring us all of the good points of or­na­men­tal grasses with none of the bad be­hav­iour, so you’ll be safe with this se­lec­tion. These are hardy, clump-form­ing, sun-lov­ing peren­ni­als, which will steadily de­velop into im­pres­sive spec­i­mens that make an im­pact even though the height of some is mod­est. At­trac­tively var­ie­gated fo­liage is a fea­ture of some – none are brash or gar­ish – while many will boast danc­ing feath­ery plumes in shades of ma­hogany, sil­ver or pink in late sum­mer and au­tumn. Grow mis­cant­hus as spec­i­mens; with the sun be­hind them, the back­light­ing can be de­light­ful. They are lovely with other au­tumn peren­ni­als, too: think Michael­mas daisies, Ja­panese anemones, se­dums, and even dahlias and large ar­gy­ran­the­mums. A dark back­ground, such as an ever­green hedge, helps show off their win­ter struc­ture well and there’s noth­ing quite like the plumes rimed in morn­ing frost. Soil Happy in most soils, in­clud­ing moist and dry. Rich soils may pro­mote floppy growth, while drought will re­duce size. Po­si­tion Flow­er­ing is most pro­lific in full sun. Har­di­ness Rated as RHS H6: hardy in very cold win­ters, down to -20°C. Care Re­move the plumes as they dis­in­te­grate and cut back fo­liage in early spring. Al­low clumps to ma­ture into showy spec­i­mens. Stak­ing not re­quired. Warn­ing Wear gloves when han­dling mis­cant­hus as the fo­liage can be sharp-edged. Where to buy Knoll Gar­dens, knoll­gar­dens.co.uk, 01202 873931; Beth Chatto Gar­dens, bethchatto. co.uk, 01206 822 007; The Plants­man’s Pref­er­ence, plant­pref.co.uk, 07799 855559

‘Ze­bri­nus’ Arch­ing fo­liage banded with short, creamy cross-stripes, topped by sil­very-brown plumes in Septem­ber. H 1.5m Septem­ber 2017

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