Saturday, 31 December 2016

Plant of the Year 2016: Ampelodesmos mauritanicus



The arching inflorescences of Ampelodesmos mauritanicus developing in June.
 In the course of the year many plants have their season of excellence, coming up to prominence, doing their thing and retreating. Some have a longer season and catch the eye for longer; for none has this been more true this year than my clump of Ampelodesmos mauritanicus. I've known this grass for a while, and admired it in other gardens, but hadn't grown it myself. In 2014 I acquired a small plant, which has grown steadily into a significant tuft of dark green, pampas-like leaves - though only about 90 cm long  they are just as sharp. Last year it produced one inflorescence but this year a whole sheath of them appeared in June. They flowered in  July and since then have waved in the background on stems at least 1.8 m long, arching over plants and the path, giving a beautiful leitmotif to the garden for the past six months.

The modern country of Mauritania seems a long way from North Yorkshire, but in classical times Mauritania referred to the western portion of the Maghreb, in present day Morocco. The grass is found there and in southern Europe and presumably there is some variation in hardiness. Books say it is not entirely hardy in northern Britain, so we shall see how it fares long term (the past two winters having been very mild), but this year it has been a star.

The flowers opened in mid-July.

The flowering heads took their place among the summer profusion of flowers, here in July. The tuft of dark green leaves is just visible.

Catching the light  on a late August evening

- and on a frosty morning in November.

Still firmly arching and framing the border this week.

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