Pots of Autumn drama
Spring and summer inspire potting recipes that are frivolous, flowery and colourful but autumn and winter are seasons needing a more dramatic look. We couldn’t resist the wonderful foliage colours, textures and the air of mystery imbued by the plants we found in the nursery this month – and we simply had to display them together in a pot.
2 x Flowering kale (Ornamental cabbage)
1 x Yucca desmetiana (syn. Y. samuelii)
1 x Festuca glauca ‘Silver Eyecatch’ (Fescue)
2 x Isolepis cernua (Fiber optic grass)
Flowering kale or Ornamental cabbage is simply a fancier selection of ordinary kale, Brassica oleracea, which gardeners love to plant in their winter gardens for extra colour. It is edible and very popular as a garnish. Floral artists also love this annual with its frilly appearance and foliage variations in red, purple, pink or cream. Plant the seedlings (now available in punnets) out into the garden or buy some instant potted colour to use in containers. Flowering kale enjoys full sun or light shade.
Yucca desmetiana (syn. Y. samuelii) is a small Yucca with a different appearance to most other Yuccas which mostly have a threatening presence. It has a columnar growth habit up to 1,2 m high in the form of a large rosette with older leaves coloured in dull green or bluish-grey and younger ones in a deep burgundy shade. The leaves are broad, leathery and pliable and they droop down gracefully. The sharp leaf points, so prevalent in other Yuccas, are absent here. It is a lovely plant for pot culture on a shady patio or for sunny gardens in warm areas. It is quite drought-resistant and will tolerate moderate frost.
Festuca glauca ‘Silver Eyecatch’ is an evergreen, ornamental Fescue grass with steely, blue-grey foliage which deepens in colour in the winter months. It forms dense clumps that are ideal for mass planting in the landscape. Owing to its unusual foliage colour, this small grass with a mature size of about 20 x 30 cm is also a handy filler plant when planting up containers as it contrasts well with the mint-green, cream, burgundy and purple hues of the other plants in this pot recipe. It can be planted in full sun or partial shade and is very hardy against cold and frost.
Isolepis cernua which used to be known as Scirpus cernuus, is an interesting grass or dwarf bulrush in the sedge family. It is native to many regions of Australasia, Eurasia, Africa and North and South America where it likes to grow in moist, boggy conditions. When the many silvery flower heads appear on the ends of green stems, they look like fiber optic strands, hence the common name, Fiber optic grass. The growth habit is trailing with many threadlike green stems forming billowing mounds. The mature size of this plant is about 15-30 cm high and 50 cm wide. It does best in full sun or partial shade.
Creative ways with Fiber optic grass
• Grow a few plants singly in fairly tall but narrow pots allowing the thick grass curtain that they form to trail over the edges. A lovely specimen plant for indoor use in bright light.
• Take a tall, clear glass vase, fill it with pretty pebbles to about two thirds, add water and place one of these Fiber optic grasses on top of the wet pebbles. Before you do this, take it out of its nursery plant bag, wash the soil off its roots and trim them lightly before arranging.
• Plant swathes of isolepis alongside ponds and water features.