Saturday, September 29, 2012

A Giant in my Yard

Day 224
The Daily DuBrule

When I moved into my home eight years ago, the first thing on my mind was building a privacy border to the empty lot next door. I made a plan using all sorts of deer-proof evergreens, winterberries, pussywillows, and other flowering shrubs that would do the trick. I knew it would take time for this border to grow in. In the meantime, I planted some really tall perennials and one giant ornamental grass for immediate effect.

Erianthus ravennae (a.k.a. Saccharum ravennae) is called Northern Pampas grass, and for good reason. The plumes are massive, reaching 10-12' into the air. It spreads 6-8 feet across. Even in the winter, the snow doesn't break the dried flower heads, it just stands right up and rustles in the wind. I plunked it right in the middle of native chaos, with mountain mint, milkweed, asters, and ironweed all around. Behind it is Physocarpus 'Centerglow' paired with Maclaeya cordata of all things. Next to it is a smokebush, Cotinus 'Young Lady' which surprisingly enough is still sending out flowers in late September. The two pines that flank it are Pinus bungeana (lacebark pine) and Pinus flexilis 'Vanderwolf's Pyramid'. Both are happy as clams and the heavy clay soil doesn't bother them a bit.
I wait until late winter to cut this grass down. I have to wear long sleeves and thick gloves. Each leaf and even the flower stems are covered with little tiny hairs that can cut your skin. I learned that lesson the hard way. I tie it up with twine, chop it at the base with my garden sickle, and fling the entire bundle over the hillside in my passive compost pile. Other than this yearly ritual, I do absolutely nothing else to the drama queen that reigns supreme over my back border.

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