Monday, 31 December 2012

Plant of the Year 2012

Calamagrostis × acutiflora ‘Overdam’, early May
In a year of great change and without much active gardening, no immediate candidate for my plant of the year presented itself, but on reflection, and on going through my images it became obvious that one plant had in fact been outstanding in the cottage garden at Colesbourne. It's the grass Calamagrostis × acutiflora ‘Overdam’, raised in Denmark, which I'd planted quite extensively in the gravel border in 2011. It emerges as the weather warms up with each blade crisply variegated with white and flushed pink: a very pleasing clean, fresh look for spring. It looks good on its own at this stage, but it pairs beautifully with many other plants, whether with more solid green foliage, or flowers.

Calamagrostis 'Overdam' with tulips, April

With Allium 'Purple Sensation', May.
With the bulbs it almost becomes a supporting act, but after they fade it becomes a star in its own right (again), with massed plumes of pinkish-purple flowers providing a remarkable depth of colour in the border, though the variegation fades. The flowering stems are extremely strong and flexible and return to the vertical however buffeted they've been, through summer, autumn and most of the winter. They begin to get a bit dishevelled in late winter and at that time I would cut them back to tidy them up and let the new shoots up. It is not faultless; my main quibble is that is perhaps just fractionally too stiff and that the clumps, at least in their early years, remain distinct rather than blending together, but much depends on the angle at which the stand is viewed. This is a minor flaw, however, in an outstanding, and to me, indispensable plant.

In full flower (back, behind Deschampsia 'Goldtau'), July

Bleached by now, the flowering stems remain attractive in October.

Calamagrostis 'Overdam', with Rudbeckia triloba 'Prairie Glow', October.


  1. It is indeed a wonderful plant. I have a row of them planted along the top of a slope where they catch the sun and blow in the wind

  2. I have made a note of this versatile plant.

  3. I should try out this grass. How does it compare to the frequently used "Karl"???

  4. I can see from your photos what a superb grass this is, I must try to use it somewhere, if I can find room!

  5. John it is the only grass I use ( you know how trad I am) but getting it for clients last year we were offered Calamagrostis Avalanche which Orchard Dene recommended and was less upright. SO not sure whether to go for Overdam or Avalanche and love to know what you think? We miss you down here and I doubt Colesbourne will floruit as it did under your care. Happy New Year Mary K

  6. @Riz: the main difference is that it's variegated - I've not grown 'Karl Foerster' so have not observed it in detail.

    @Mary: You need to diversify your palette! I have not seen 'Avalanche' so can't comment. Looks as if I must practice what I preach...


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