The Calamagrostis group of ornamental grasses have some useful members - most of which are long flowering, and persist well into the winter with their attractive seedheads.
They are well suited to perennial herbaceous borders where they make elegant additions to the oft sprawling plants in the herbaceous border.
As the common name suggests, they are happiest in damp conditions - though live if watered in dry areas.
In the summer months, Calamagrostis brachytrica has feathery plumes of flower spikes - coloured light green with hint of pink or purple.
The flower heads are held slightly above the non-intrusive foliage to a height of around 90cms (3 feet). The flowers last well into late summer and then fade to light brown seedheads for early autumn and well into the winter.
The leaves are a blue green, long and pointed, but not untidy. It is more or less evergreen, and fully hardy - even in harsh winters.
Calamagrostis brachytrica will form a clump some 2-3 feet (60 - 90cms) across in two years of growth. It is well suited to use in the herbaceous perennial border - giving long spell of autumn interest, which contrast well with the usual yellows and reds of late autumn flowering perennials.
It can be grown - un-crowded - in a shrub border and again, thought should be given to the autumn colour. Think about planting it in association with red maples or Purple Berberis. It is also a brilliant addition near to red stemmed Dogwoods.
It spreads by underground rhizomes, but is not invasive.
Like most grasses, it is quite trouble free and does not particularly suffer from any pests or diseases. Once planted - in the right place - it will give years of pleasure through summer, autumn and winter.
During the early spring, some of the rhizome growths can be separated from the parent plant, or the plant can be divided.
Seed sowing is an option, but the methods above are the best options if just a few extra plants are required.
Calamagrostis make good container plants in patio pots, with just a little attention needed to watering in dry hot summers. Plant in a soil based compost with added peat or multi-purpose compost. Feeding if required should be done with a slow release fertiliser such as Osmocote granules or plugs.
Containerised plants can be planted at any time of the year, with no special treatment to the garden soil - other than ensuring the the planting hole and subsequent infilling is not lumpy. Give ir a bucket of water after planting - to ensure that any infill soil makes close contact with the root system. They will not require staking or other support.
If planted at front of border, then they will normally arch forward slightly. A nice detail - otherwise it will grow to a reasonably erect specimen.
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