Grasses – Chasmanthium and Phalaris


Cultivation – Chasmanthium latifolium occurs in most fertile woodlands. It thrives in sun or dappled shade on rich, moisture-retentive soils, sheltered from strong winds. In these conditions it will bear attractive inflorescences similar to those of Briza species and suitable for cutting and dying.


In overall habit, it is far superior to Briza, however, making a fine clump of reedy growth overtopped by nodding, ‘spangle’ inflorescences which progress from olive to bronze with the onset of autumn. Few grasses are so decorative. Increase by division in spring.


Cultivation – Small reed-like grasses valued for their tolerance of a range of soil situations, dry and wet, and grown for attractive seed heads for drying (Phalaris canariensis) and for the brightly variegated foliage (Phalaris arundinacea cultivars), most perennial species are also cold-tolerant to between -15 and 20ºC/5 to 4º.

P. arundinancea and P.a. ‘Picta’ are noted for their invasive tendencies (of great value in making impenetrable groundcover), providing useful colour contrast in the foliage border and in wet soils at stream and pondside; they can be confined where necessary to planting in a sunken, bottomless half barrel.

P.arundinacea ‘Picta’ (Gardener’s Garters), is perhaps the first variegated ornamental grass to be cultivated, its long history in gardens underwritten by its almost unkillable nature. In the American prairie States it has become a serious weed Pa. ‘Feesey’ has brighter colour and is less invasive, as is P.a. ‘Dwarf’s Garters’. Propagate perennials and cultivars by division, annuals from seed sown in situ in spring or earlier under glass.

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