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Calamagrostis brachytricha

Calamagrostis brachytricha

As the growing season draws to a close there are still many highlights to enjoy in the garden, such as ornamental grasses which provide great texture, movement and colour at this time of year.

A fantastic species to try is Calamagrostis brachytricha which reaches about 4ft (1.2m) tall and bears tight, conical, silvery grey plumes with a red tinge that sparkle in the early morning dew and gradually turn golden brown as autumn draws to a close.

This grass needs well-drained but moisture retentive soil and at Hyde Hall it can be found growing in bold drifts by the Modern Rose Garden in the Hilltop and in the more naturalistic setting of Clover Hill.

Vital statistics

Common name
Korean feather reed grass
Family
Poaceae
Height & spread
0.9–1.5m (3–5ft) high
Form
Perennial grass
Soil
Moist, fertile soil
Aspect
Full sun or partial shade
Hardiness
Fully hardy

Calamagrostis

Calamagrostis are robust rhizomatous perennial grasses, forming tufts of linear leaves, with erect stems bearing dense branching flowering panicles in summer. There are about 270 species of these handsome reed-like grasses from northern and temperate regions. They are slow-growing, clump-forming grasses with feathery flowerheads that generally stand well over winter, making them sought after garden plants.

Calamagrostis brachytricha

This species produces clumps of dense glossy-green leaves that turn yellow in autumn. In late summer and early autumn, narrow flowerheads are borne on tall stems that open up into fluffy silver-grey plumes of pinky purple flowers. These last over winter, above the arching leaves, and give rise to an alternative common name of foxtail grass.

This plant is from moist woodlands and woodland edges in eastern Asia, but is tolerant of a range of conditions as long as the moisture levels are sufficient. It makes a good specimen or container plant, and is great when grown in drifts. It also dries well. It has a tendency to self-seed prolifically in suitable conditions.

Cultivation

  • Cut back old growth in early spring to about 13cm (5in)
  • Leaves may suffer from rust in wet summers or if planted too densely

Propagation

  • Divide in mid-spring
  • Sow seed of the species

AGM

The RHS Herbaceous Plant Committee awarded Calamagrostis brachytricha an Award of Garden Merit and described it as follows:

'Distinct; looks good as cut flower.'

Useful links

Cutting back grasses

For more information on ornamental grasses - including planting, cutting back and dividing, visit the RHS Advice pages.

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