My Thoughts – Stipa tenuissima

This is the first of a series of posts I intend writing during the winter.

I thought that while the weather is not so good to be outside enjoying the garden I would spend some time pondering the effects certain plants have in the garden.  They will probably all be plants that in themselves may seem very ordinary, very easy, not worth a second thought; but that in reality support the performance of other plants adding to the overall beauty of the garden.

I have chosen Stipa tenuissima as my first plant because for me it performs in every month of the year, supporting a changing cast of seasonal flowers.  Giving them a soft green or honey- coloured background; also giving them physical support as something to lean on; filling in gaps that would otherwise be bare soil.

2nd January - Stipa tenuissima in the circular rose bed. adding some green to the bare stems of the roses

As I have mentioned here before, it is a plant that self seeds profusely in my tuffo soil!  Even if you don’t want lots more plants this is not a problem they are easily removed and can be added to the compost heap without fear that they will reproduce from their roots.  If there is a downside it is that they look wonderfully green during their first year of growth but after ‘flowering’ they turn honey- blond and unless you remove the dead flowering stems and pull or comb out all the golden foliage it will remain hiding the new bright green leaves that add so much to the garden during the winter.  I usually pull the strands out with my fingers, combing through the plant; I am considering using a small rake, the kind we harvest our olives with –like a child’s rake for sand at the beach.  Nurseries often cut back the foliage but I think this leaves an ugly clump of dead foliage and it loses its lovely fountain quality.

Looking bright green on March 21st

As I have so many seedlings I’m considering removing older plants and simply leaving the newer plants.

Now some photos to show how I combine Stipa with other plants:

with Tulip Abu Hussan April 4th

At the end of May with Sisyrinchium striatum

again the end of May with roses and Gaura

with Knifophia Little Maid in June

By 25th June the Stipa is begining to flower and bleach

with Drumstick Alliums again June 25th

September 12th Stipa bleached honey gold with Sedum

7th November again with Sedum

On the slope which I have been discussing in my ‘End of Month Reviews’ I will  leave them to see what happens – I want the whole area to be like a prairie so unless the Stipa begins to crowd out other species I will be happy they are covering the ground stopping more pernicious weeds taking hold.

Here some of the seedlings I have transplanted to the slope. There are also almost invisible Gaura seedlings

Here is the description from the RHS:

“Stipa tenuissima (interestingly they don’t give its synonym Nassella tenuissima)

Densely tufted, deciduous perennial with erect, narrowly linear to filament-like, tightly inrolled, bright  green leaves, 30 cm (12 in) or more long.  Throughout summer, bears a profusion of narrow, nodding, softly feathery panicles, to 30 cm (12 in) long, greenish white at first, becoming buff.  The whole plant billows in the slightest breeze.”

For me this last phrase is the most important – the movement (and therefore life) this plant gives to the garden is incredible.

27 thoughts on “My Thoughts – Stipa tenuissima

  1. Wonderful post Christina, I love learning about and being inspired by new plant combinations, this is exactly the kind of thing I love to read about – that and how other people’s gardens develop. I love the stipa + allium combination, it is similar to the photo I took inspiration from when planting my stipa with Kanutia macedonica. The tulips look stunning with it too – then again I love all those combinations. I look forward to the next instalment!

    • Thanks Janet, there is so much I would like to write about if only there were more time – make time! I know is the answer and I’ll try. Writing a post like this really helps me think about what’s working and what isn’t! i wish I could get some Knautia macedonica, a plant I’ve admired in many other gardens; sadly I’ve never found it anywhere here, but I’ll keep looking because I think it would do well for me. Christina

  2. Hiya,
    I can never understand why I seem to be the only one that feels these grasses make beds look untidy and mess up the plants they surround. I know everybody else loves them. Just wish I could see why.
    However hard I try, to me it looks like fine plants growing in an untended and overgrown orchard. I can’t even see it as a softening or blurring effect.
    But then: I felt the same about blog awards a year ago, and now I notice many blogs that ward off awards. (P.t.P.)

    I so hope I will like the next plant you pick out, so we can be friends again 🙂

    • There will probably be other grasses, but there will be other plants too! wait and see. What I love most about grasses is the movement they bring to a garden. But there’s no problem with you not liking them – that’s really important in this world – that we can all like different things. Christina

  3. Hi Christina,what a good idea, and a lovely plant to begin with.Grasses have so much to offer and this one has as you say,movement and grace. I cannot grow it so well here in cold clay, but Carex Frosted Curls does well, and seeds itself around, making a more circular, perhaps heavier clump,but definitely worth having for its contrast with other ploants, and its silvery strands.

    • Yes Stipa loves the heat and free draining soil. I can’t grow Carex, though Frosted Curls used to be a favourite of mine in England, because it needs more water than I’m prepared to give it.

  4. Now I know what my Nassella should look like! Our season is too short for them to reach those proportions, but I plant them every year just the same. The way they catch the light and every breeze makes them indispensible, even in winter when they are dead and dusted in snow. I wish they were perennial for me….

    Christine in Alaska

    • Thanks for leaving a comment Christine. I’m sure you have to use lots of plants as annuals that I use as perennials, it really doesn’t matter if it works for you. Some plants decide for themselves whether they will be deciduous or evergreen depending on the temperature and it can change year on year.

  5. Seeing the colour of the plant progress through the year I think I prefer it when it is new fresh growth as well. It is interesting to see your photos of how it works with other plants particularly the Sisyrinchium striatum. I have lots of these and wouldnt have thought of putting the two together until now – thanks

    • Hi Helen, the combination of the Stipa with the Sisyrinchium was an acident the first time, but when I saw it I liked it so much I put them together in others areas too. I’m looking forward to seeing how it works in a mass planting.

  6. Pingback: Why are grasses so hard to get right? | The Patient Gardener’s Weblog

  7. I am a grass fan as it is Christina and this stipa is a beauty !
    I wish I could find some that are hardy here because that fine foliage is so pretty .. it would look wonderful in my garden too .. I have to work on that .. more research to come in these long dull winter months !
    Thanks for stopping by my blog : )

    • I’m sure there must be some good grasses that would be suitable. Are there cultivated forms of the wild grasses that grow near you? They would presumably be hardy. As you say, the winter gives us time to think, research and dream which is great.

  8. Hi Christina: Just stopped by to check out your blog. Very good and well presented. Looked around a little and will be back to look some more.

    Thanks for the visit see you again,

  9. Pingback: It’s September and Autumn is here « Creating my own garden of the Hesperides

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