Grasses are ‘in’. With the current fashion for naturalistic planting, grasses play an increasing role, coming into their own as the days shorten. From large miscanthus cultivars to the diminuitive stipa tenuissima, there is something suitable for every plot. Many have very fine seedheads, but finding one with bulkier ones on a smaller plant is not so easy. Fortunately, there is one.
Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Hameln’ seems to go by several common names according to a Google search – Dwarf Fountain Grass, Chinese Fountain Grass, and African Feather Grass to name just three
It needs a light, well-drained soil in full sun, and tolerates poor, dry soils without complaint. Early in the season, it is a plain Jane, even (dare I say it) a boring plant. But from late July, the seedheads start to appear; these last well into autumn and even into the following year. A fully grown plant can reach three to four feet in height with a similar spread. It is evergreen and gardening advice tends to be “remove dead foliage in spring”, but I prefer to shear the whole thing off about six inches from the ground and enjoy the fresh new foliage as spring warms up. And if you can arrange it so the seedheads are backlit, this grass will outshine any man-made fountain in the garden.