Grass: The ultimate design feature

Grass: The ultimate design feature

A huge range of grasses are now available and they can be used right across the garden.

Some provide a colourful low spread among featured plants, others add enormous, striking clumps with wonderful flowering spikes and others add extraordinary height.

Grasses are the ultimate designers, architectural plant, adding see-through effects, gentle rustling, autumn colour and winter shapes. They tolerate a huge range of conditions from gravel gardens to solid, lumpy clay. Grasses can be used in borders as individual eye-catchers, large or small, or repeated in groups in drifts to create a natural look, with paths rambling through them. Some grasses can be grown in pots and containers.

Cortaderia (Pampas grass) is a giant grass, be careful where you plant them because they will quickly form enormous clumps. Cortaderia selloana ‘Albolineata’ is a pampas grass that only grows about 6 feet tall, is slow growing and compact with a white margin to the leaves and silvery white plumes. Cortaderia selloana ‘ Sunningdale Silver’ has strong, erect stems and silvery white plumes, it will grow up to 10 feet tall.

There are a number of medium and smaller grasses which are more easily accommodated in most garden borders. Stipa gigantea (Golden oats) forms a dense tuft of evergreen leaves growing up to 2 feet tall. In summer the plant produces an array of flower spikes, purplish green in colour, turning gold when ripe and can reach 8 feet in height. Miscanthus sinensis ‘Zebrinus’ (Zebra grass) is a deciduous grass that produces dense clumps of foliage with creamy white or pale yellow horizontal bands on the leaves in late summer. It grows up to 5 feet tall and will produce a mass of feathery flowers in the autumn. Briza maxima (Greater quaking grass) is an annual with very thin stems that produce tiny heart-shaped flower heads that rustle in the breeze and turn straw colour in the autumn. The variegated form ‘Aureola’ has bright yellow leaves, it needs partial shade to produce the best leaf colour.

Most grasses are easy to grow, full sun being the main requirement and most tolerate a wide range of soils. Most perennial grasses are relatively easy to propagate by division. This is best done in spring, not in the autumn, because the new divided plants can rot in the winter before they develop a good root system. Many grasses will also self-seed themselves around the garden.

Jobs for the week

April is a busy time in the vegetable garden, soil temperatures are starting to rise so seeds will germinate quickly. Plant onion sets leaving about half of the bulb exposed. If the soil is hard, loosen it up to prevent the emerging roots pushing the bulbs out of the soil. Birds have a habit of pulling out the bulbs, so cover them with a plastic mesh or fleese.

Make early outdoor sowings of salad vegetables such as spring onions, lettuce and beetroot. Sow carrot seeds thinly in rows and cover with horticulturists fleese to prevent the carrot fly attacking the young plants.

When the soil is dry, rake over the surface and cover with polythene for a week before sowing. This warms up the soil and get seeds off to a good start. If you have grown lettuce or cabbage seeds in a greenhouse or window sill, harden them off before planting out. Most vegetables, especially the brassicas, will benefit from lots of well rotted manure or compost dug into the soil.

This week we planted potatoes, this year it is hard to get seed potatoes, all suppliers are sold out due to demand.

We planted ‘catriona’, a second early variety. Plant the potatoes in rows, 4-5 inches deep and 8-9 inches apart. Plant them in rows 24inches apart.

Garden Club Notices

Limerick Flower and Garden Club will have their monthly event on Tuesday the 12th of April at the Greenhills Hotel on the Ennis Road starting at 8 pm