Anne Swith­in­bank’s Mas­ter­class

Amateur Gardening - - News -

QI’ve read that or­na­men­tal grasses should not be planted or moved dur­ing au­tumn, as spring is the best time. Is this true, as I’d like to put some in now? Jill Thur­rock, Chel­tenham, Glouces­ter­shire

AThis is both true and false, as or­na­men­tal grasses are di­vided into two sorts for cul­ti­va­tion pur­poses. Those known as cool sea­son grasses be­gin their growth in late win­ter and pro­duce flow­ers by mid­sum­mer.

Ex­am­ples in­clude the showy golden oat grass (Stipa gi­gan­tea) and shadetol­er­ant Bowles’ golden grass (Mil­ium ef­fusum) ‘Aureum’. It’s gen­er­ally thought that they es­tab­lish bet­ter from an au­tumn plant­ing than a spring one.

As with ev­ery­thing in gar­den­ing, ad­vice is tem­pered by soil and cli­mate. On well-drained soils or in slightly raised beds – and as long as they are planted by mid-au­tumn – these cool sea­son grasses should take well. Yet on heavy soils like mine, which are of­ten wet and cold dur­ing win­ter, I would de­lay plant­ing un­til spring and would not risk lift­ing and di­vid­ing grasses such as fes­tuca past the end of Septem­ber.

I sus­pect that you want to plant warm sea­son grasses such as pan­icum and mis­cant­hus, be­cause they look so good at this time of the year. Flow­ers fade and per­sist well, add soft­ness and move­ment, and look great dec­o­rated by dew or frost and snow. Yet these warm sea­son grasses go dor­mant dur­ing win­ter and don’t start back into growth un­til late spring or early sum­mer. Not sur­pris­ingly, they are mainly sun-lovers, rel­ish­ing warm, shel­tered spots.

As a group, they don’t take well from an au­tumn plant­ing and tend to sit, mope and po­ten­tially rot away dur­ing the long wait for their grow­ing pe­riod to start. Far bet­ter then, to buy fresh, healthy plants in spring, con­di­tion soil with sharp grit if bet­ter drainage is needed, and get them in just as new growth is show­ing. The same goes for lift­ing and di­vid­ing ex­ist­ing plants.

On the whole, grasses pre­fer poor, well-drained soils – as any­one with clay soil who tries to grow bil­low­ing Stipa tenuis­sima will tes­tify; they of­ten rot, to be re­placed by seedlings. On wet, heavy soils, stick to sedges.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.