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Your Life - Gardening: Pippa Greenwood on getting back to.. GRASS ROOTS.

Byline: Pippa Greenwood

GRASSES are growing in our affection as lawns get the decking treatment and we search for ways make our gardens greener.

Whether planted in a whole bed, or combined with herbaceous plants, grasses are a great addition to the garden.

Any good garden centre or nursery has a few attractive grasses, but a visit to a specialist nursery will amaze. Here are 11 definitely worth looking out for:

1: BLUE WHEATGRASS (Elymus magellanicus) These are perfect for a sunny, open spot. Probably the bluest of the grasses, their wonderful foliage gradually forms into clumps. Deciduous, they reach a height of 60cm.

2 : HAKONECHLOA MACRA ALBOAUREA

Lovely gold variegated foliage which forms handsome mounds. Growing to about 35cm, it is deciduous and prefers a spot in the sun or part shade where the soil is not too dry. Great in a pot.

3 : PAMPAS GRASS (Cortaderia selloana) This is the true giant of the garden grasses, reaching 9ft (2.7m) with a tendency to be invasive.

It thrives in a well drained soil and is most often seen growing as a specimen in a lawn - making it easier to keep it under control.

If you only have a limited space consider the more compact and well-behaved variety "Pumila" which usually grows to 4-6ft (1.2-1.8m).

4 : CLUSTERED FIELD SEDGE (Carex praegracilis) As the picture shows this is tough. It's very drought-tolerant so is fine in dry sun and shade. It grows to about 60cm and is evergreen, each plant looking like a bright green "bad hair day".

5 : HEAVY METAL (Panicum virgatum) This moisture and salt-tolerant grass enjoys a sunny spot and with its bright foliage, is a great way to bring some really rich colour to your garden.

6 : QUAKING GRASS (Briza media russells) This lovely new form of quaking grass has delicate flower heads that tremble in the slightest breeze. It has only just come on to the market and has great variegated foliage. Does best in sun or light shade

7 : IDAHO FESCUE GRASS (Festuca siskiyou blue) This is a taller blue grass than most, reaching 45cm (18in). The extra-long foliage forms a brilliant shaggy mound and performs well in a sunny spot with a well-drained soil. Lovely in a pot.

8 : MAIDEN GRASS (Miscanthus dixieland) This deciduous grass reaches about 1.4m. The leaves are prettily variegated bright green and white. It loves a sunny spot and does well in a large tub.

9 : HIMALAYAN FAIRY GRASS (Miscanthus nepalensis) This deciduous stunner grows to about 1.5m producing mounds of green foliage from mid-summer. The fluffy flower plumes are held well above the foliage so there's no chance you'll miss them. Grow it in a sheltered spot in full sun.

10 : PENNISETUM (Pennisetum tall tails) This grows to about 1.2m and produces a light green mound of foliage. In the summer it is topped with pinky-white flowers, resembling a fox's brush. Likes a sunny spot with a well-drained soil.

11 : MISCANTHUS GILT EDGE

Great for impact, this reaches 2m or so in height and has fabulous bright yellow and green variegated foliage. Does best in a sunny, open spot.

READY, STEADY, GROW..

ALL of these grasses are available from Knoll Gardens, a nursery specialising in growing grasses. Send off for an informative, colour-illustrated catalogue by sending your address and nine 2nd class stamps to: Knoll Gardens, Hampreston, Wimborne, Dorset BH21 7ND. Visit the centre online at www.knollgardens.co.uk Here, you can browse through the centre's selection and place orders. If you are in the area, the nursery is a fascinating place to visit, for details of opening times call 01202 873931.

THESE ornamental grasses are not difficult to grow, but as with any plant, make sure that you choose a plant well suited to the conditions you have to offer.

FEW grasses are likely to experience any problems in either an alkaline or acidic soil.

MANY grasses make great autumn colour, so don't be too hasty to tidy them up. Some also look great if left in the border throughout winter where they bring welcome colour, texture and interest.

IF you decide to grow them in pots, opt for a good-quality compost and remember it is absolutely vital to keep them adequately watered and fed.

CAPTION(S):

BLUE WHEATGRASS; HAKONECHLOA MACRA ALBOAUREA; PAMPAS; CLUSTERED FIELD SEDGE; HEAVY METAL
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jul 23, 2005
Words:728
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