I am always looking for beauty and staying power in all things….particularly in the gardens that surround us.
Last year as I was working on a little piece of heaven, I tried to stay in a xeriscaping mindset on a daily basis. Xeriscaping is a garden practice that focuses on utilizing the right plants for the right place, using natural rainfall and minimal maintenance to maintain. I first used this technique while gardening in Fredericksburg, Virginia. My little piece of heaven is in another part of Virginia and while it is beautiful, I needed to think of plant material that could survive without weekly maintenance, very little supplemental water and native soils. I found myself eternally looking for “that” plant that would provide the impact of style, grace, durability, tolerance to extremes and of course beauty at least three out of the four seasons of the year.
As I would drive down Pennsylvania Avenue, past one of my favorite places – The Botanical Gardens – I watched a wonderful small, yet dynamic statement unfold. At the corner of First Street and Pennsylvania Avenue there is a strip, a tree box of sorts – but there s no tree. Hard to believe, but there is a perfect perennial grass that has made me fall in LOVE !! This ornamental grass has wood me every morning for the past year….and even now it continues to touch my soul.
In the Spring it was a mere crew cut, generic straw colored clump that blended in with the other ornamental’s that had been cut back to prepare for the upcoming season. As Spring turned into Summer, this little specimen grew and then it really started showing off. On overcast and rainy days, the wispy blades of this ornamental grass brightened up an otherwise generic landscape. On sunny days, this grass would shimmer as though a garden fairy had been in the gold dust and thought it would be pretty to heavily dust these clumps of grass in spite of their crew cuts.
In the Fall, as surrounding trees transitioned from their cooling summer greenness, their autumnal kaleidoscope of earth tones to their winter nakedness, it was clear that this little perennial was becoming the life of this little roadside party.
Two Saturday’s ago in the middle of a rainy/wet snowy afternoon, while I saw people going inside the Botanic Gardens to escape the elements, I seized the moment and took advantage of a private moment with this little grass that captured my heart.
I had to park behind the Botanical gardens which was okay because it just made my journey last longer. I walked past the Witch hazel that waved her arms in the bitter wind as if to say “…aren’t I as beautiful as your friend?”…..as I admired her, I kept walking. Past the Pink Icicle Camellias who smugly stated “….but my blooms are bigger and they are pink…and you know you love pink”. Once again I smiled and continued walking past the hedgerow of healthy Gardenia’s, who silently escorted me to my love. Pausing past the Rain Garden, just to see if anything dare capture my attention, to make me stray from my true love, who waited patiently for me around the bend.
As I turned the corner, glowing under the overcast sky, gently moving with the breeze, dancing with the rain drops, he spoke to me, gently, quietly …”Teri, you have heeded my call”. I quietly stood guard as an admirer of this little gem, an ornamental grass that has staying power, 3 season interest and can handle the pressure of city living.
Although this grass – Stipa tenuissima – is known to be hardier in climates mostly south of DC, it has fared very well here in DC. Sometimes one has to push the zones when we garden , if not then we miss the possibility of finding a jewel in the rough.
Visit the Botanical Gardens, as well as the Bartholdi Fountain/Garden this winter. You would be surprised at the beauty that these places hold….even in the midst of the rain.
Here are some other colorful late winter inspirational ideas……
Spring….where are you???by
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