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The Gardening Coach

Catharine Howard is the Gardening Coach. Contact her for gardening advice and visit www.thegardeningcoach.co.uk for more information.

Pennisetum Red Buttons runs away with me

I have been having a love-in with Fountain grasses for quite a while.   Pictured here is the one that I have run away with in my not so big garden.  It is Pennisetum massaicum ‘Red Buttons’. First eye-balled it at the Chelsea launch in 2010 on Neil Lucas’s Knoll stand.  Stalked after that,  including  a visit to his Dorset garden, 8 or so plants went into the borders here in Spring 2015.

This grass is a wow.  It flowers early on and by July holds blood red infloresence  high above sussurating leaves.  Co-plant it with Allium sphaerocephalon for a satisfying echo of shape and colour.  After July, a judicious haircut will keep the flowering heads coming back and the echo can be repeated with sanguisorba.  Then it  stands through the winter, leaves turned spun gold and slightly shiny with no annoying shaggy hair shedding thing.

The 8 plants have clumped up tremendously in my slightly wet loam.  The success of their colonising has been the only drawback.  In two years their spread has gone forth, tight but slightly menacing.  Yesterday I spent 20 minutes on each plant, teasing with my ladies fork, hacking with my ditching spade to reduce each plant to managable elegance.  The horti brain tells me that I should actually have discarded the middle not the fresh outer growth.  No matter, here in several recycling buckets there is enough bare-rooted stock to make another 500 plants.

If you are in Suffolk, UK drop round and get some from me.

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