Stipa gigantea: adding height, texture and movement
Like many of our favourite grasses, Stipa gigantea (commonly known as the ‘Spanish oat grass’) is simply brilliant for adding texture, movement and interest to any garden. Great at most times of the year, it is really comes into its own in September and so is perfect for carrying a garden through the awkward transition from late summer to early autumn.
S. gigantea is a tall semi-evergreen grass which can reach heights of up to 2m. The ‘bulk’ of the plant forms a lower ‘clump’ of fine green foliage, but tall and arching mid green leaves produce wonderful glistening panicles of simple oat-like panicles. Preferring sunny positions and well-drained soils, S. gigantea is more hardy than it’s exotic appearance would suggest. ‘Flowering’ can begin from late June, but I always think it looks it’s best in September.
From a garden design point of view, I love to use S. gigantea either as a single ‘feature’ plant or in large confident drifts. It provides beautiful textural contrast in the middle or rear of a mixed planting border, particularly when it is planted alongside larger-leafed plants. It’s light and airy foliage dances in the slightest breeze and always adds superb interest and movement.
S. gigantea is also wonderful as a companion for other tall perennials. Verbena bonariensis, Foeniculum purpuream (bronze fennel) and Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’ all work particularly well with S. gigantea, as does Rudbeckia ‘Goldsturm’.
So, if you are looking to add a little extra texture and interest to your garden this September you could do a lot worse than Stipa gigantea. Even if you don’t think of yourself as a fan of ornamental grasses (and it’s amazing how many people tell me they aren’t), please do consider it- I’m sure you will love it.
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