Historically, miscanthus were grown as tall autumn-flowering plants for the back of the border. Not any more...
It’s always exciting when a plant is in an active state of development and inspired breeders improve plants in ways we’d never have thought possible.
For so many years, the miscanthus cultivars available made impressive specimens but were often too tall and too vigorous for most gardens. Also, some that seemed promising came into flower too late in the season to give a good show.
Then, shorter, better-behaved and variegated forms arrived. Those two qualities were then combined together and another – red autumn foliage – was added.
This turned miscanthus into fine three-season plants for almost any garden.
First there was ‘Navajo’, introduced in 2015, which features a white central vein to the foliage. The leaves start to develop reddish tints in summer and the colouring intensifies as the plants reach about 1.2m (4ft) and develop an elegant aching habit.
Then came ‘Neil Lucas’, named for the grasses guru who runs Knoll Gardens in Dorset. Reaching 75cm-1.2m (2½-4ft) its foliage is rich green with a white central stripe. From early summer the edges of the foliage start to turn red, giving a tricoloured effect, gaining in intensity into autumn.
The most recent advance in this type comes in the form of ‘Ruby Cute’. At only 45cm (18in) in height, ‘Ruby Cute’ is much more dwarf than other selections but, again with the white central vein to the foliage. ‘Ruby Cute’ features the familiar silvery plumes in late summer and, at the same time, that white strips starts to develop pink tones – then in autumn the whole plant turns wine-red.
All three of these varieties were developed by the Dutch grasses breeder Hans Mesker whose Kwekerij Symbiose (Symbiotic Nursery) is in the north of the Netherlands.
‘Navajo’ is available from Great Dixter
‘Ruby Cute’ is available from Thompson & Morgan
Please note: the contents of this blog reflect the views of its author and do not constitute an official endorsement by the RHS.