There is a project that I have worked on for the past five plus years. I call it my Sacred Place. It has been simply amazing to see it evolve ….almost like having a baby and watching it grow slowly. I remember thinking that the stone mason was fortunate to be able to look at the all beauty that surrounded him daily. Learning what a cairn was (a mound of rough stones built as a memorial or landmark, typically on a hilltop or a skyline) and actually wondering why? Why this spot, what signifigance would it have in the landscape, to the skyline…as it was not on a hilltop….what was my client thinking?
As the years past…yes two plus summers, the cairn and the wall along the river, evolved from a pile of irregular stones -dry stacked, a skill that is rare these days. I had to come up with a design that would simply show off the wall and not detract from it. It had to complement the colors of the stone, it would have to embrace the spirit of the site and the natural surroundings already in place. Simple, not busy..something that would flow, calming to the eye, xeric and preferably at least three seasons of interest. I knew that I could accomplish this feel, by sitting with the site on a summer evening, as I listened to the river speak.
My favorite plant (I call it my boyfriend, as it has yet to fail me with it’s dependability), an awesome perennial, a plant that I was advised to NOT try as it was not dependable in this zone. Plant zone pusher that I am, I even told my client that THIS was the plant. I observe this plant almost daily as I drive past the United States Botanical Gardens. I have watched it for three or four years as it starts out the season with a buzz cut, grows into an almost irridescent mound of fine foliage dancing in the breeze, to a luminescent clump of golden waves of grain in the fall. Finally, it becomes a mound of super fine foilage that glows in the midst of winters gray.
My favorite ornamental grass, my boyfriend -ever dependable and always at his best….Stipa Teunissima……. I would have to say that this ornamnetal grass deserves more attention than it gets…but that is okay. I initially saw this ornamental grass at the USBG andwondered what it was. I would pass it daily and thought that it was perhaps an annual grass, filler, fluff. However, since it captured my attention, I observed it as the seasons and years evolved. I had to see for myself what it was called. I now had a reason to pause on my way home from work and as I was walking for wellness. The way Stipa moves in the breeze, the calm of it’s presence, the gentleness in the touch of it’s foliage, is such a contrast to the concrete and hectic pace that surrounds it. I have watched as the staff of the USBG placed a few perennials in the midst of this awesome perennial – Echinacea, Salvia and other grasses. I however like my Stipa simple, straight up, no chaser. Stipa Teunissima, in the right setting can stand alone…four season interest, xeric and visually calming to the landscape. I was pleasantly surprised that even after two polar vortexes, my Stipa has not failed me…..how awesome is that?
I urge you to stop, pause and visit some of the places that feature plants that capture your attention. Get to know what specific plants provide in the landscape, be a zone pusher, learn something new and perhaps it is something that you would consider for your personal landscape. You just might find a new love as I did a few years ago……Stipa Teunissima…I love you……by