Tag Archives: grasses

Well, I Never…..!

As a gardener, you never stop learning. Books, magazines, and gardens usually. However, a recent gem of information, came to me via the most unusual source – the supermarket!

Browsing the shelves, I noticed this bottle of vodka – a new one on me! I must confess my eye was drawn to it in the first place, because I did misread it! Bison vodka? No, obviously not, once I looked closer. But bison grass flavoured vodka. Novel!

Now, I’m not a lover of vodka, but I am a lover of finding things out.

Move on a few days, and Lo and behold! I’m sitting comfortably, watching cookery programmes on telly (another favourite topic) wondering where The Hairy Bikers are in this episode. Of course,( for this story to pan out!) they turn up in Poland. They visited a family who gather (you’ve guessed it!) bison grass to flavour vodka. Found in nearby woodlands, on a World Heritage site, they gather and dry the leaves in their attic. And so the programme followed them on their quest to track some down. They found a clump, which the bikers tasted, and claimed it tasted of vanilla and coconut! But it did look familiar to me. I just had to find out what it was!

Where would we be without Google?! It turns out its botanical name is Hierochloe odorata and no wonder it looked familiar. I’ve been growing it in the garden for several years! I was tempted to try growing it from seed, when the seed catalogue described a scented grass! Well, how could I resist! It turned out to be a rather disappointing grass, with no interesting form, being very floppy and prostrate, and with no scent that I could detect. I hate to say, but in the ground, it could easily be taken for a clump of weeds! The only way I could give it any kind of appearance, was to grow three plants, flowing out of three identical blue glazed pots. At least that way, they looked like they were meant be there! 

All that time, and I never knew their secret! I can look at them now in a new light!

If only I liked vodka! 

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Oh, Dear! Never Mind!

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This just sums it up!

I must confess I have been struggling for inspiration both in gardening and blogging. I could blame a late holiday. I could blame six weeks of world class rugby for taking my interest. And I could blame decorating for taking my time. But that was many weeks ago. I don’t even think I can blame the usual Christmas panic. All is in hand for once. After deliberating this strange situation, I realise I must blame the weather. It has truly dampened my spirits – not to mention the garden.

I hate wind! More than any other weather episode! Apart from the arch, it has also blown down a fence panel and countless pots have been blown over and debris been scattered around the garden. Climbers have been torn from their supports. Everything is sodden. The garden is in a sorry state. And the truth of the matter is, that the newly decorated indoors is, just now, more appealing!😩

Don’t panic, though! This illness is acute, not chronic! And time is a healer!

Despite the minor destruction, there is still much of interest in the garden. My all important scent is still present, in the form of Mahonia japonica, Lonicera purpusii and Coronilla Citrina, with many more perfumed buds waiting in the wings – complete with new shoots! I’m already seeing signs of bulbs coming through, and hellebore flowers pushing their way through the damp soil. Festive red skimmia berries are so welcome! Even roses are still managing to bloom, as my last vase shows.

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This is when foliage plays its part. Especially grasses. They are not just for summer!

Hakonechloa macra

Hakonechloa macra

 

What a beautiful bright gold to brighten the gloom!

That said, I feel there is much room for improvement. Many of our shrubs are either overgrown, or underperforming. The domineering ash tree is, I’m sure, now having a detrimental effect. So a rethink is on the cards for the New year.

The tree must go, the surgeon has been appointed, and we are awaiting a date.
That will let in so much more light. I want to add loads of soil improver to the shrub borders, to improve the quality of the soil, probably quite malnourished. I want to look closely at the flower borders, and ruthlessly dispatch those that are not performing well. I’m well aware of the growing number of scented shrubs dotted around the garden, still in their original containers (if they haven’t been blown over!). I think I must follow my passion in redesigning these borders, shifting the emphasis towards these shrubs. Many, which are struggling planted on the shady side, may appreciate a move from the dark side. I must keep myself in check, though, and not be too hasty. Who knows what a difference a tree makes – or lack of it!

So, despite the grey skies and gloomy weather forecasts, there is much to look forward to next year. It’s quite exciting, really!

That’s what gardening does! 😀

A Bowl of Frosties!

Crocosmia with Miscanthus, Artemisia and Persicaria

Crocosmia with Miscanthus, Artemisia and Persicaria

Boy, is it cold today! Takes us all by surprise! A pleasant one, however, after this wet and weary spell.

Well, my first choice of title, was to be “A Touch of Frost”, but it had already been used. But a touch of frost is what this post is all about.

How wonderful is the first real winter frost! It transforms the garden from a dull, mushy brown to a winter wonderland. It defines all the leaf edges and foliage detail, with crisp whiteness. This is when you pat yourself on the back for including all the grasses, and structural plants.

Deschampsia cespitosa

Deschampsia cespitosa

Miscanthus "Morning Light" with fennel

Miscanthus “Morning Light” with fennel

In the Grass Garden, the silvery Miscanthus grass, “Morning Light”, becomes even more silvery, set against the backdrop of frosted fennel seed heads.

Even the functional Allotment, takes on a picturesque quality.

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The last of the sweet pea flowers twinkle out of its frosted tepee, looking somewhat like an early Christmas tree!

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The wayward stems of the Japanese Wineberry, still with its autumn coloured leaves, are now edged with white.

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And the frost outlines the box balls, accentuating their crisp, structural qualities.

Mahonia japonica

Mahonia japonica

Elsewhere, in the garden, the frost picks out the scented shrubs, giving the Mahonia japonica, just starting to flower, the appearance of a sparkling star.

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Most of the flowers are now long gone, but the raspberry flower heads of the sedum, looks like fruits that have been dusted with icing sugar.

And talking of raspberry tones….

Cotinus "Grace"

Cotinus “Grace”

….isn’t the last of Grace’s leaves, stunning etched in white?

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Despite the sterling work done this year by our lovely “Annabelle”, she is still looking wonderful in her old age. As the song says “Silver threads among the gold”.

If this is what winter has in store, then bring it on!

The Cuttings Calender – September

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Sometimes simplicity is best!

This was my favourite for the month. I loved its freshness, and was enjoying the late burst of pure white rosebuds, nestled amongst the lime green flower heads of our good old friend “Annabelle”, yet again. And it was also, my first foray into Cathy’s meme “In a Vase on Monday”.

Mind you, it was a close run thing! Roaring into second place, was my warm, rosy wine vase I created for my “Last of the Summer Wine” post, out of the dying embers of the garden.

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It was quite a concoction of wine coloured flowers, buds and grasses, seed heads and red berries, freshened up with some simple white Anemone “Honorine Jobert” and Rosa rugosa flowers. The wine tones were provided by the flowers of our unknown Sedum, Persicaria amplexicaulis “Firetail”, the buds of Skimmia rubella, and the wonderful, velvety flower spikes of Miscanthus “Ferner Osten”. Other grasses were also used in the making of this vase. Seed heads were provided courtesy of Crocosmia “Lucifer”. The red berries used were from our Rowan tree (again, unknown variety) along with the hips of two roses – the fat juicy ones of Rosa rugosa and the smaller, goblet shaped ones of Rosa rubiginosa – complete with their leaves to provide bright green and blue green foliage respectively. Quite an autumnal display!

I must share with you my landmark of earlier in the month. Six vases in one day!

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You probably recognise several of them carried over from August, but there’s a couple of fresh ones, in there.

First, my jug of flowering herbs,

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with mint, lavender, hyssop, fennel, borage and purple sage.

Second, more rosy tones,

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with Persicaria used again, this time complete with leaves, complemented with the favourite wine combo of Cotinus “Grace”, and Miscanthus “Ferner Osten”. You can also see the red blades of the grass Imperata rubra, blending beautifully.

Other offerings this month;

A cool blue composition image

More sweet peas,
this time with rosemary. image

A single white rose. image

Buttercups and Daisies. image

And finishing where we started,

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the same vase, minus the long gone roses, fading away like a sepia photo!

The Last of the Summer Wine

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I’m so pleased with our crop of grapes! O.K. – so they’re small, more the size of blackcurrants, really, and all “pip and skin”, but they’re also sweet and delicious. When you consider that the vine, Vitis vinifera “Brant”, was chosen for decorative purposes, to cover the pergola, this is definitely a bonus!

While (sort of) on the subject of wine, my walks around the “Estate”, has revealed a very rosy glow (or should that be, rose?). Now you may be saying to yourselves, “What do you expect? After all it is autumn!” and I agree. This is the time when foliage takes on fiery hues – reds, purples and golds. But these dying embers seem to embrace more than the leaves.

They include flowers,

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– here we have our unknown variety of sedum, their flat, rosy red flower heads, in among the daisy flowers of Aster frikartii “Monch” and Echinacea purpurea –

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– and here we have the rosy red bottle brush spikes of Persicaria amplexicaulis “Firetail” with their complementary coloured leaves. They have been flaming now since the start of the summer, like a veritable bonfire.

They also include grasses,

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such as the wonderful wine velvet inflorescences of Miscanthus “Ferner Osten”, so beautifully soft and tactile, partnered with the similarly coloured Cotinus “Grace” and its contrasting shaped leaves

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and the grass Imperata rubra now joining in the colour scheme. Note the carefully positioned self-seeded Red Orach!

Even the stems want to join in!

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Our Japanese wine berry is making a bolt for it over the box hedge.

Some plants have it all!

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Red Orach (Atriplex hortensis var. rubra) is greedy with its deep wine leaves and stems, and matching flowers and seed heads.

But leaves cannot be ignored!

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Our Hydrangea quercifolia is turning a gorgeous, rich wine shade, with tiny flower remnants turning slightly pink.

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Now to turn this theme on its head! Here, the colour change is in reverse. The normal wine colour of Cercidophyllum japonicum “Red Fox”, is starting to change to buttery yellow. Its somewhat rubbery leaves, turn a lovely shade before shedding and emitting a wonderful scent of burnt toffee! (I had to get scent in here somewhere!) The prospect of this was so irresistible, that even though this is a large tree, unsuitable for the average garden, I had to give it a try in a pot. Probably utter folly, but worth a try! This coloured leaved variety is no so tall as the species, so I may stand a chance. Is this my most unusual scented shrub perhaps? The scent being provided by its shed leaves?

And also, looking in from next door, not wanting to miss out are
some beautiful Hydrangea mop heads.

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More “stolen pleasures”!

All we need now, is to bring some of these rich colours indoors, to light up the house.

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Broadwaters Park – A Weekend Walk

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It’s a park we pass now and then, in Kidderminster, and it always looks so appealing from the adjacent main road, with tantalising glimpses of wonderful planting, skirting a brook. We decided it was high time we took a look.

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It’s an area of 2 hectares, by the, now renovated, 13th century Broadwater Mill, on the banks of Wannerton Brook. The mill has had many identities over its 7 centuries, including that of a flour mill, a fulling mill for the cloth industry, an iron forge and latterly, as a laundry. It was originally a much larger building several stories high, now just a single storey.

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A strange place for a planter!

I would say it’s less of a park – more of a lovely short walk, about a 20 minute gentle stroll by the brook. It’s punctuated by several interesting and quirky wood sculptures. (Did you spot the forge worker, by the mill?)

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A totem pole at the park entrance. It has actually incorporated a carved “ball in a cage” feature – so clever!

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Squirrel Nutkin – What to do with an old tree stump – enhanced by some wonderful mushroom growth.

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And – How to lose a snail!

We also saw a family of carved ducks – oh, and a heron! But he was real! (The camera wasn’t quick enough!)

The main drift of planting, follows the bank of the brook, crossed by several stone bridges, running parallel to the main road.

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It could be a lovely spot for a picnic, but only if you could cope with the constant hum of traffic from the nearby busy main road.

However, at the entrance to the park, there is a lovely, more secluded area, ideal for opening the hamper, with or without the travelling rug! Today, there were no picnickers. I’m afraid it was a damp, drizzly day. There were instead some children playing “Hide and Seek”. What a refreshing scene to witness!

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Here, there was a “nugget” of raised beds, filled with, what appeared to be, sensory planting, full of rustling grasses, now in their prime, and colour, courtesy of bright, yellow rudbeckias and white anemones. Scented herbs, and “touchy-feely” stachys, flowed over the edges, that led you into a small herb parterre.

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Sadly, by the brook,it was a case of “You should have been here last week!” The planting was going over and definitely past its peak, but there was no denying it had been a glorious spectacle.

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This WAS a glorious, golden spectacle, with Rudbeckias, Crocosmias, Acanthus, Achilleas and Solidagos.

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And this WAS a colourful swathe of wild flowers. I could make out the last of the field poppies and cornflowers.

All created and tended by a band of about 60 volunteers – The Friends of Broadwaters. A job well done!

Not one for a day out, unless a picnic is the plan, but definitely a much more pleasant way to walk along a main road!

I Can Sing A Rainbow

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I think now, at this time of year, is a good time to show you some of my grass collection, and some of the ways I use them in the garden. These photos are not current – they were taken earlier in the year, when I was tending to my pots, and this idea came to me then.

Scent is not my only love in the garden. I love the graceful movement that grasses give to a garden, with their wonderful light and airy texture, and their tactile qualities. So I have lots, and use them in many different ways.

I came up with the idea for my Rainbow pots, while admiring all the colour variations, you can get with grasses. Knowing there were many brightly coloured glazed pots available on the market, I thought, “Why not have a collection of cojloured grasses with complementary pots? They should look good lining the path against the wall, in the hot coloured Grass garden.” So here they are all in a row!

They don’t all actually sit in a row on our bench! They’re arranged in two groups either side.

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This group are the hotter coloured pots….

GREEN – Miscanthus sinensis “Gold Bar”
YELLOW – Carex oshimensis “Evergold”
TERRACOTTA – Anemanthele lessoniana
RED – Imperata cylindrica rubra
BROWN – Uncinia rubra

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….and the cooler pots.

PALE BLUE – Carex comans “Frosted Curls”
MID BLUE – Panicum virgatum “Heavy Metal”
DARK BLUE – Festuca glauca
BLACK – Ophiopogon planiscapus “Nigrescens” – which isn’t, in actual fact a grass, although it is frequently referred to as the black grass. It is a member of the lily family, also known as Lilyturf. But it has the same effect.

And so a collection of colourful grasses!

Having shown you Anemanthele in one of my pots, see what a difference some shade makes!

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The Anemanthele on the left is so much more lush and green, growing in a pot in another, shadier part of the garden.

Another experiment I tried, which I think has worked extremely well for me, is using Hakonechloa macra to line a gravel path.

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Here, it lines the gravel path adjacent to the garden wall, interspersed with boulders. Although it is a shade lover, it’s doing really well in this sunny position. I love the effect it creates here, en masse!

And to round up on a fun note –
– what better way to plant up an old, chimney pot?….

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….or to skirt the base of an old, rusty water pump?….

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….than our old faithful, Carex buchananii!