THE POTTED GARDEN:
GRACEFUL WINTER GRASSES
Ornamental grasses can be used to great effect in the garden and are perfect for containers, providing a calming effect or a more dynamic focus to specific areas of your outdoor living space
Growing grasses in pots combines the beauty and versatility of ornamental plants with the freedom of container gardening, which means you can move them around according to the seasons or personal preference. Most ornamental grasses adapt really well to container culture and some are actually easier and more practical to grow in pots as it keeps them under control.
Use loam-based compost such as John Innes No2 with 20 per cent loam-free compost to lighten the mix. Select good-sized pots to suit maturing plants, and remember to feed and water and to pot the plants into bigger pots when their roots have filled the pot. They do not need much feeding though, one application of a balanced fertiliser in spring is adequate. The up-side of ornamental grasses is that they are relatively low maintenance and generally suffer from few problems if they are kept in the right part of your garden for their needs – light, shady, partial shade.
Some of the most popular varieties include:
Carex: A tuft forming evergreen perennial that is very tough and contemporary and looks good all winter. Try Carex ‘Milk Chocolate’ – a richly coloured variety that slowly forms a dense mound. It has dark purple and brown slender foliage with delicate pink edges that turn into autumnal shades of orange and brown as winter approaches, growing to a height of 60cm.
Stipa tenuissima: Also known as Mexican feathergrass, it is hardy and fast growing producing a frothing cascade of yellow flowers. An elegant grass with fine, gently arching leaves. Feathery plumes of flowers emerge from June to September and mature to a soft golden brown in winter. It can grow up to 100cm.
Festuca glauca: This is a tufted evergreen grass forming a tactile mound of thin blue-green leaves. Summertime brings buff coloured feathery flower stems that rise above the foliage and move gently in the breeze. A really versatile plant that reaches a height of around 40cm and adds year round colour and texture to any container garden.
If pots and containers are just part of your outside space then here are some gardening tips for this month from the RHS (Royal Horticultural Society):
• Plant autumn colour
• Create a bird feeding area
• Move tender plants inside or into a greenhouse to protect against frost, or fleece
• Harvest autumn vegetables
• Collect falling leaves
• Plant spring flowering bulbs
• Prune tall growing roses
• Dead head all faded flower heads and remove any parts of plants that have died back