Tuesday, December 18, 2012
Pheasant's Tails for Foliage Follow Up
I'm so rarely on time for Foliage Follow-up...but if I get it done within a week of when I should, I still feel pretty proud of myself. Now, hold on to your seats, you're going to be shocked to hear that I'm going to talk about...yes...a GRASS!
For the moment, the name of this particular grass is Anemanthele lessoniana (which, sounds amusingly like a spell straight out of Harry Potter). Perhaps it is a spell, which, in Latin, means "Change colors all year long!", because that's certainly what it does. The plant above is planted in my north parking strip, and is partially shaded by our Persian Ironwood tree. At the moment, it's mostly green with hints of gold and orange.
This (somewhat sad) specimen, however, was growing in the dense shade of my Rhus typhina 'Tiger Eyes' all summer. Not only that, but it never received a drop of water (oops...my bad). I'm not sure what causes which colors to appear in these grasses, but the stress during the summer seems to have blushed the whole plant with tints of red and russet...quite fetching...particularly in the low light of winter.
Stress seems to bring out the best colors in this grass. Here, a seedling I got at a plant swap this spring is perpetually golden in color. Again, I think I maybe remembered to give it a drink 3 or 4 times this year...other than that, it's pretty much fended for itself.
This range of color variations throughout the year (dependent on conditions) is what gives this grass its common name, Pheasant's Tail Grass. While one common name is enough to keep in mind, to add to the confusion, I've also seen it listed as New Zealand Wind Grass...and it's often still listed under its previous Latin name, Stipa arundinacea...confusing, right?
This is the biggest and oldest clump of Anemanthele I have...the first one I planted...in the back yard 2 years ago. At first, it seemed like it was going to stay a tight little tussock of foliage forever, but this summer, it's really come into its own...even after being completely covered by the rambunctious perennials around it all summer. It's now a generously graceful fountain of foliage...and I really love it. This one stays mostly olive-green for most of the year...but is always shot-through with strands of gold and ochre. It does transition to a more colorful form during winter, but may be too sheltered to really develop the strong coloration in other parts of my garden.
Nonetheless, it's a beautiful (if subtle) grass...and I really dig it. A bonus, its evergreen (or ever-gold, -red, -orange) here in Portland...yet doesn't form thatch (at least not that I've found) like so many of the Sedges tend to do after winter.
Of course, once early summer rolls around, I'll also get to enjoy its lovely flowers, which emerge as sikly tassels and soon explode into a pinkish-purple veil, obscuring the plant for months in forthy goodness. Anemanthele is hardy in Zones 8-10, so if you fall in that range, give it a try!
For more Foliage-y goodness, head over to Pam Penick's Digging!
Oh...NEWS FLASH! We got a little bit of snow this morning in PDX...it didn't stick in my area...but it sure was purdy while it lasted :-)