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.