|Stipa gigantea beginning to bloom behind a blue bearded iris in my front border|
Anyway, over time, and for various reasons, I have cut back on the kinds of grasses I grow. Probably the number one reason for this is that many of them--particularly the big ones-- got to be too much work. They required much labor in cutting them back in the spring, and if they ever needed dividing, like some miscanthuses do, then God help you. Pampas grasses were too messy looking in the winter and also too much labor. Others seeded themselves about too much, such as Anemanthele lessoniana. Still others I removed because they declined over time as my bamboos grew and shaded them out. Also, since I have so many bamboos in my garden, the shape and form of most grasses is redundant. Finally, as I got into photography I wanted more flowers, so grasses made way for more flamboyant flowering plants.
This brings me to the present, where I am only growing a few grasses and those can be summed up with the words Stipas and Hakonechloas. I grow three types of Stipas in my front border. Stipa gigantea, Stipa tenuissima ( I still refer to it this way, rather than as Nassella which is its new name), and Stipa barbata. In my fenced in garden I grow a lot of Hakonechloa and I have previously written about the Hakonechloa 'All Gold' that I grow in pots here.
Today's post is about one of those stipas in my front border--Stipa gigantea. This is a great plant for a sunny, dry site. As you can see from the picture, the blooms are starting to emerge now, and they make a wonderful airy backdrop to all the flowering plants in the front border. The basal foliage of this stipa is only about a foot tall, but the flowering spikes extend a couple of feet above that. Over time that base will exceed a couple of feet in diameter. Since this grass flowers relatively early for a grass in this region, it coincides with the big flowering extavaganza which occurs in this border in June.
This grass looks pretty good all year long, but I cut it back to the ground every spring. This neatens it up and it quickly regrows from that haircut. By the way, I am often asked by gardeners if they can cut something back that looks bad. My advice always is to cut it back, whatever it is, if it is ugly. The worst that can happen is that you will kill the plant, but if it is ugly, who cares? If it lives, you will have improved it quite a bit.
I find seedlings here and there of this grass, but it is not a major weed like some other grasses I have grown including Stipa tenuissima. Stipa gigantea is also quite long lived for a grass. The one in the picture has probably been there for about 10 years.