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 :-)
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I may give it a try even though I don't fall into that zonal range. Very nice!ReplyDelete
It might be worth it, Alan...it's a pretty tough little plant...and would surely survive the winter in your garage, if nothing else :-)Delete
Nice. How tall does it get while flowering, and is it hardy to zone 5?ReplyDelete
It's stays fairly short, in the 2' range, I'd guess (with a spread of a little bit more). The flowers stay fairly close to the foliage...adding maybe another 6" of height. Sadly, not hardy below Zone 8. I realized after I saw the hardiness, that I should have chosen a plant that more people could actually use...DOH!Delete
I'm shocked, shocked, I tell you, that you're showing a grass for Foliage Follow-Up! Kinda like me showing an agave or yucca, right? ;-)ReplyDelete
This one is a true beauty. Love those colors. Isn't it funny that stress can do such marvelous things for the attractiveness of a plant (it's true for certain succulents as well), but not for people?
Hahaha...well, we like what we like, right! So true...if only I reacted to stress with brilliant coloring, instead of a reduced temper and insomnia!Delete
That last photo is stunning!ReplyDelete
Thanks...I guess I'm thinking of spring a bit ;-)Delete
Very nice, I like this one. Should work in our climate quite well since it goes to zone 10 and can tolerate being on the dry side.ReplyDelete
Definitely...and yes, I forgot to mention, it's quite adaptable to the dreaded dry shade!Delete
Great post! I feel like the grasses always get left out. You have some pretty ones I haven't seen. As always, enjoyed your post.ReplyDelete
Thanks, Kacky...you can always count on me to shower the grasses with some love :-)Delete
Whatever you call it, it's lovely. Especially as it shifts its colors during the autumn.ReplyDelete
Definitely...it's fascinating to watch it's changing throughout the year!Delete
It's a beautiful grass that I see used a lot in UK gardens, which lead me to suspect it wouldn't be hardy for me. Zone8! Definitely not. And I was getting enthused. :(ReplyDelete
Booo! So sorry, I really didn't realize how tender it was until I looked it up at the very end of the post :-(Delete
That should look great in a nice large pot with maybe a big rosemary growing up thru rhe middle....ReplyDelete
OOO...that would look nice :-)Delete
Nice to have this take over the spotlight once those rambunctious Agastaches get out of its way. I think it's actually fun to see posts of plants that won't make it here so we can enjoy them virtually, if not necessarily in real life.ReplyDelete
Haha...indeed, Ricki! That's one of the great things about garden blogs...we get to visit such plants vicariously!Delete
You've captured the auburn russet golden green light of your Maritime climate in the tangle of your grasses: makes us Continental folk sigh with green envy...ReplyDelete
There is definitely something special about the light out here...so soft and diffuse...well, when there IS light ;-)Delete
Your grasses are great and your photos capture them so nicely.ReplyDelete
You've got a very interesting blog with beautiful photos. I'll add it in my links.ReplyDelete