Monday, January 21, 2013

Tufted Plants

When choosing plants for our gardens, it is usually the flowers that catch our attention, but foliage is also a very attractive feature. Many foliage plants are tufted or clump-forming and there is a huge variety with one to suit almost every environment. Some evolved near rivers and their form allowed the water to flow over them freely, others are shade tolerant and some of the grasses evolved in open plains where they were accustomed to being windswept.

The tufted plants come in a range of different sizes from the huge phormiums to the smaller textured plants that look great in the front of a border. The beautiful Japanese Temple Grass (Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’) looks wonderful in a tub, its foliage is a perfect foil for the container and the colour of the stems picks up the colour of a terracotta pot superbly. There is a phormium for almost every garden situation and one with the correct height and foliage colour to fit into the context of your garden.

Phormiums require little maintenance but when the leaves become tired and dry on the ends, they need to be cut back to the base to make way for the new leaves. With the large vertical types such as Phormium ‘Anna Red’, remove the straggly lower leaves so that the plant maintains its attractive shape. The Golden-leafed SedgeCarex ‘Bowles Golden’ makes a lovely border plant. A good way to identify a sedge from a grass is that sedges have triangular stems, grasses have round ones. Each tufty can be used in different situations. For example, the small hand shaped tufty Libertia peregrinans has beautiful green and bronze foliage, which looks particularly attractive when used with pebble mulch, but ensure that it doesn't become invasive by containing it in some way. Phormium ‘Jester’, is a useful vertical plant with very attractive striped leaves.

Japanese Blood Grass (Imperata cylindrica ‘Rubra’) likes the full blast of the sun and a quite dry spot. It grows particularly well with Euphorbia rigida, which also likes lots of sun, and not too much water or fertiliser. If you have a shady spot, then Iris foetidissima ‘Variegata’ is the tufty to use. Colour variations are very common in grasses and Calamagrostis ‘Karl Foerster’ has beautiful subtle plum tinges to the stem and flowers, but as the season passes, the stems will become tougher and more oat-like in colouring. The plants talked about so far have been exotics, but there is also a host of Australian plants to choose from such as Poa poiformis ‘Lavender’

Contemporary landscape designers often use tufted plants in mass monocultural plantings for effect and contrast. They should be selected not only for their individual qualities but for the way the in which they work with other plants. For example, Fairy’s Fishing Rods (Dierama pulcherrima) have elegant long stems and pretty flowers that look wonderful hanging over lavender.

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