Introductions for 2008
Aren’t All Grasses Grown From Seed?
Many of the grasses sold on the market today cannot be propagated
from seed. Some of these grasses are sterile hybrids, which
means that the seed is not viable. Calamagrostis
‘Karl Foerster’ is an example.
However, more often it is a case of a specific ornamental grass
maintaining its characteristics only by being vegetatively propagated.
Many of the more decorative grasses have a special trait such
as a strong red leaf colour (eg. Panicum
virgatum ‘Shenandoah’) or a larger size or a
more beautiful flower. A grower noted this and decided that
such a trait was worth preserving. So it was done by vegetative
propagation – by separating or dividing the parent plant
into many smaller plants, over and over again. Seeds from Panicum
‘Shenandoah’ will not produce plants that look like
it, rather it is likely to produce plants that look like Panicum
virgatum, a much greener plant. The only way to obtain more
Panicum ‘Shenandoah’ plants is to divide it.
It is very easy to tell at a glance which grasses are vegetatively
propagated. Its in the name. Simply look for a name in single
quotes, for example, Panicum virgatum ‘Shenandoah’
or Festuca glauca ‘Elijah
Blue’. Panicum virgatum is the species name and ‘Shenandoah’
was the name given to that particular plant. Vegetatively propagated
grasses will always have a uniform look in the landscape, that
is to say that they will all be approximately the same size,
shape, height and colour.
You may have noticed how many cultivars of Miscanthus
sinensis exist. That is because its seed produces highly
variable plants. Growers have noticed this and selected a number
of beautiful plants. The variation is amazing! Hence there are
over one hundred distinctly different Miscanthus sinensis cultivars
available on the market today.
Grasses without the single quote in the name are often grown
from seed. These seed grown grasses will vary slightly in colour
and size. For example Festuca glauca
will vary from blue to blue-green. Some may be bushier, others
more upright, etc. Seed grown plants are often less expensive
to produce, hence they are priced lower than the more labour-intensive
So if you
are doing a mass-planting of a single grass, give some thought
to how important a uniform look is to you. If you are considering
the less expensive seed-grown plants, feel free to ask us about
the plant's uniformity, as some grasses show little variation
from one plant to another.
Every once and awhile plants are mislabeled. With the huge
number of plants on the market this is unavoidable. Pennisetum
alopecuroides 'Hameln' appears to have been a victim of
this, as some plants labeled as P. ‘Hameln’ are
proving to be much larger for some people than for others. It
should be that all P. 'Hameln' are the same size. We take very
seriously the maintaining of the correct name. In the case of
P. 'Hameln' we do in fact have the dwarf variety.
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