An uncommonly good grass

Here in the UK, we have had the hottest summer for over forty years. In June and July, temperatures hit 32C (anything over 25C is considered “hot”) and no rain for nine weeks. How did gardens fare? Well that depends on the garden – and the gardener.

My garden ethos has always been “right plant, right place”. This is the way the late Beth Chatto developed her gaden in Essex, but I was using the same principle before I had even heard of her. The idea was I would never have to water the garden. So how has it coped this year? Pretty well actually. There was quite a lot of moisture in the ground from a wet winter and spring, and most plants did not require a single extra drop – 99% I’d say. Newly planted additions received irrigation as they had not had time to get their roots down, and one or two shrubs, such as hydrangeas, required an occasional drench.

Grasses sailed through the summer as if these conditions were normal. Molina, panicum, pennisetum and stipa were all unaffected, as was Sesleria autumnalis. So why is this grass so difficult to come by? My original plant came from a seriously secialist nursery in 2006 and languished on serious neglect for several years. In early spring last year, that single plant divided into eight smaller ones, lining a path in semi-shade. This year, they have looked spectacular.

Sesleria autumnalis - 2018

Although evergreen, I shear it back in early spring, and it soon covers itself in new growth before sitting quietly through summer, waiting for things to cool down a bit before getting into its stride again. Easy-going in sun or part shade, it tolerates most soils as long as it is not waterlogged in winter.

If you’re looking for a low grass that grows practically anywhere and doesn’t seed into every empty speck of soil, then track down and plant Sesleria autumnalis.


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