There was a great turn-out of members and guests for the excellent July talk given by Jennifer Matthews, who had travelled from Rhyd-y-Groes Gardens in the Preseli Mountains, where for 20 years until 2017 she ran Moorland Cottage Plants nursery. Now Jenny offers services such as garden design and photography, and has been opening her own garden for the National Garden Scheme for 22 years.
As background, Jenny began by telling us about her garden, which was just an upland field to begin with, explaining that she has always tried to garden with nature. It now contains, among other elements, a herbaceous perennial border, lime lollipops, a wildflower meadow including bluebells in spring, a shrub border including rhododendrons, and an ornamental meadow with cultivated native grasses and big, bold perennials.
Jenny’s introduction to grasses explained their importance as a plant family – from cereals for food and fodder to ground cover and now more and more to another plant group that gardeners are adding to their repertoire of ornamental plants. Grasses offer elegant linear forms and year-round interest along with low maintenance.
There are three types of grasses – true grasses, sedges and rushes, and bamboos. True grasses have a wide variety of colour and growth habit, with round stems, while ‘sedges have edges’, the stems being almost triangular. Rushes have solid, round stems and need more moisture than sedges. Bamboos in their turn have hard woody stems – they can be specimen plants but also make effective screens and hedges.
Grasses can be variegated – with white, cream or yellow variegation; they can be plain green, yellow (these often do best in shade) or blue (for hot, sunny situations). There are also red, copper and brown grasses. They do not have vivid, showy flowers, but the flowers do provide attractive structures which last well from summer into autumn.Jenny described all the different situations in which grasses can be used: herbaceous borders, island beds, mixed borders and beds, woodland gardens, architectural garden styles, flowering lawns, meadow and orchard gardens, ornamental meadows, bog gardens and water gardens (largely rushes). There are grasses for dry shade, damp shade, part shade, sunny and open sites, as well as well-drained and very sunny locations.
Jenny gave us tips on caring for grasses (they are fairly low maintenance – she described her own regime of weeding and dividing if necessary in spring, and cutting back in winter as the grasses themselves being to collapse), and for propagating them (always wait until you see the first signs of growth in spring or early summer – some grasses will be later than others). She also ran through a list of perennials which make good companion plants for grasses, a good selection of all of which she had brought with her for sale to members. After questions and warm appreciation for a fascinating talk, our appetites suitably whetted, many members made a beeline for the array of beautiful plants for sale.
It was agreed that the August Social would be held at the Telegraph Garden Centre on 17 August in the early evening. The event will include a talk as well as refreshments – more details to follow, so watch this space…