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Ask Alfie August 2014

Ask Alfie

Gardening Tips by Alfie Bines

Can you suggest some evergreen ornamental grasses for a fairly sunny location.

Of the properly evergreen varieties these are some of the best and most reliable:

Larger varieties: Normally planted to give a statement, if you’ve enough space Stipa Gigantea is tough, graceful and flamboyant. Their common name “Giant Feather Grass” describes the flowers which reach 2m without trying.

Medium varieties: Plenty to choose from in this category. I’m a great fan of Deschampsia Golden Dew as it’s a real tough cookie (many grasses aren’t) and has both dense foliage and flowers which glisten in the sun. It will reach a comfortable 80 or 90cm. (You can grow this in your shadier border as well by the way.)

More unusual and one of the best blue grasses is Helictotrichon sempervirens. Perhaps more of a foliage plant, it nonetheless has pretty enough flowers which can give the plant at least a metre in height. Definitely a sun lover.

Dwarf varieties: These tend to have a different purpose to the tall and medium grasses which can be appreciated for their form and movement, both from their foliage and flowers. The dwarf grasses are often more useful at providing low level colour with the foliage being the key element. They are best planted in numbers.  Festuca glauca, of which there are many hybrids provides a really strong carpet of almost metallic blue whereas Carex Evergold has a broader leaf and as its name suggests will give a strong blast of gold if planted in clumps. Both these grasses will thank you for planting them in a sunny location.

And if you combine plants from the three categories above you’ll have a head turning strong border which looks good all year round.


What can I do about the rhus suckers which are causing a real nuisance by popping up all over my garden?

Yes. These can be a bit of as nightmare.

It seems harsh that such a splendid  and unique looking shrub should be so inconsiderate in its bid to monopolise soil space.

For those who may be unfamiliar with it, Rhus typhina, or Stagshorn Sumach is a striking foliage plant with great autumn colour and large unusual looking fruits, and as with bamboo if one is planting from scratch it might be wise to use a root barrier when planting it as it sends out invasive roots which produce suckers to form offspring.

You do not say if you still have the “parent” plant, but if you do and wish to retain it, you can try severing the roots on the parent’s side of the suckers and then treating the suckers with a suitable systemic stump and root weedkiller. Severing as described will avoid poisoning the main plant. If you want to wipe them out completely and are ok with chemicals, then a correctly applied weedkiller could save hours of chopping.

Suckers in lawns (and they seem to appear far more during dry spells) should succumb to regular mowing.

And one final option – dig up the suckers carefully to donate the junior plants to “friends”, advising them to line their planting pit with root barrier!

Alfie Bines
About Alfie Bines (24 Articles)
I have been tending the gardens of North London for longer than I care to remember accumulating a huge amount of horticultural knowledge along the way.