Newly planted M. sinensis ‘Cosmopolitan’ brightening up a Manhattan Euonymus
This year I have added one of my favorites to my sunny border, Miscanthus sinensis “Cosmopolitan” – a tall, stunning cultivar with wide creamy margins. Miscanthus species are some of the most beautiful of the ornamental grasses, growing in a fine range of variegated and non-variegated colors and widths, and tipped with panicles of bronzes and pinks as autumn takes hold of the summer garden.
For a long time, “Zebrinus” was queen of this group, popularized by Gertrude Jekyll at the turn of the century. Sporting bands of yellow transversely across the leaf, it brought pop and sparkle into the mixed border, and still does – though now there are many improved cultivars in the banded group, such as “Strictus,” who doesn’t feel the need to throw her weight around as much as her older sister.
My Cosmopolitan will not share her space easily. When she attains her final form, she must battle with a Limelight hydrangea and a Southern Gentleman ilex; but the heads of the Limelight will pick out the creaminess of her margins and the upright Southern Gentleman will complement her curves – just as any southern gentleman worth his upbringing should do.
Friends have reported great happiness with M. sinensis “Morning Light,” though if you insist on doing all your plant shopping at the big boxes, you will have to settle for “Variegatus” instead.
Elsewhere in the garden, Cortaderia selloana is making a statement at the bend in a curving pathway – let’s hope it’s the right one. In the United Kingdom, a clump of pampas grass in the garden is a not-so-subtle way of alerting the general public that there are couples swinging from the rafters inside the home. Just in case that’s true in America, it found a home behind the house.
In some hot, dry climates, pampas grass can quickly become an invasive weed – and it’s not just something you easily “pull out” either. A gorgeous specimen plant or a thug in the border… choose your site carefully, this one’s a keeper.
And speaking of invasive weeds…if you ever happen to be at a plant swap and someone offers up some Northern sea oats (Chasmanthium latifolium), think carefully before you grab them. Yes, the flat, pinkish-grey seed heads are art in plant form. Yes, it grows quickly. Yes, it is rhizomatic. Yes I will be paying for that particular weak moment for years to come.
I once saw three clumps beautifully displayed in a friend’s garden on a dry incline, with little competition from any neighbors (which tend to make it look a bit weedy), and now I am convinced that this should be a specimen plant – or at least should only be planted with others of its kind. Which, if I stop weeding, is precisely what will happen in my garden.