Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Two new grasses

I couldn’t pass up the Memorial Day sale at Silverado Nursery in Rancho Cordova and added two new ornamental grasses to our collection. Quite a deal at 40% off!

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Melinus nerviglumis (left) and Briza media (right)

The first is ruby grass grass (Melinus nerviglumis, formerly Rhynchelytrum nerviglume). Hardy in zones 8-10, this African native forms a mound about 12 inches tall; the stems are an additional 1-2 feet. Once established, this grass is reputed to be fairly drought tolerant, which makes sense given its origin. It’s a fairly recent introduction to the U.S. (it debuted commercially in 1998), and this is the first time I’ve seen it in a local nursery.

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Melinus nerviglumis

The leaves are fairly ordinary but the flowers are a stunning color of ruby red, hence the plant’s common name. The full potential of this grass is hard to see in a small plant, but check out this site for photos of larger specimens.

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Melinus nerviglumis flower panicle
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Melinus nerviglumis planted outside the front yard fence next to our Mexican bush sage (right). I’m worried about competition from the roots of our accursed Bradford pear tree (visible in the upper left) so I will keep a close eye on the ruby grass. If it shows signs of stress, I’ll move it somewhere else.

The second grass I bought is Briza media, which has a whole slew of common names, some of them quite amusing: rattlesnake grass, quaking grass, cowquakes, doddering dickies, didder, dillies, and many more. This Eurasian native is hardy to zone 4; its most outstanding feature are its seed heads which dangle from thin stems and tremble in the slightest breeze. The foliage is approx. 12 inches tall, the stems rise another 24 inches above that. This is a great grass for the front of the perennial border and makes a beautiful potted specimen, which is how I’m using it.

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Briza media
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Briza media seed heads
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Briza media (right) and Rhodocoma capensis (left),
a recently purchased restio

Side note: The large green urn on the left in the photo above was home to a Golden Goddess bamboo until yesterday, but I removed it to plant a second Rhodocoma capensis that matches the one of the other side of the front door. As much as I love bamboo, these urns were less than ideal for it. I believe the restios are a much better choice.

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Green urns with Rhodocoma capensis.
The Briza media is in the smaller bluish-green pot all the way on the right.

2 comments:

  1. Fantastic addition to you plant collection! Interesting to see you have replace your bamboo with Restios. I saw a massive collection of them last week whilst in Cornwall. Not my forte but I do see the beauty in some of them. They'd do well in your milder climate :)

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  2. Where did you see the restio collection in Cornwall? Just for future reference :-).

    I agree, not all restios are beautiful, but I'm hoping the ones I picked will be worthy additions.

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