Plant Profile: Miscanthus sinensis

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What an important group of grasses this is. A stalwart of the naturalistic garden movement in Britain, Europe and America over the last forty years or more. Championed by great plantsman such as Wolfgang Oehme, he planted them literally by the thousand. I was first transfixed by images of this species from the pages of the book he co-authored with James Van Sweden, ‘Bold Romantic Gardens’, my copy is now yellow and the cover has fallen off but it is still one of my favourite garden books.

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There are countless varieties, not all of value, and many hard to find unless going through specialty growers. Valuable varieties include ‘Gracillimus’, ‘Variegata’, ‘Strictus’ and ‘Zebrina’.

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Ornamental grasses can be contentious amongst Australian gardeners for fear of being noxious weeds. Be warned varieties of Miscanthus sinensis will self seed if the conditions allow. In a client’s garden two hours south of Sydney, on fertile soil with better than average rainfall, I have a mix of Miscanthus species growing including ‘Gracillimus’, ‘Adagio’, ‘Oligostachyus’ and ‘Transmorrisonensis’, and each year I dig up clumps of seedlings (yes, I’m talking about you ‘Gracillimus’ and ‘Adagio’), but I don’t like to garden without them.

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Image credits: 1. En el jardi 2. Supplied 3. Giardino Segreto 4. Archi-Verde