Monday, January 20, 2014

Hakone Grass - A Shade Garden Must Have

I've given many presentations on Ornamental Grasses over the years and always include Japanese forest grass, also called Hakone grass.  Hakone grass (Hakonechloa macra) is native to Japan and prefers partly shaded sites and moist soils.  It's important to note that some degree of lighting will allow for the best coloration of certain varieties as seen with the 'All Gold' Hakone grass (Hakonechloa macra) seen above in a beautiful foliage composition with hostas (Hosta sp.) and 'Mocha' coral bells (Heuchera villosa).  Moist, well-drained soil is preferred for this perennial grass and while the variegated and golden forms prefer some shading to avoid summer scorching, the greener varieties can tolerate more sun without the "summer burning."  I think that Hakone grass has been my most photographed perennial ornamental grass over the last couple of years as it is so valuable for color and texture in the shadier garden setting. There are many options out there and look further down for some more information on this exciting grass and some fun varieties.  

We had a productive morning both inside and out in the gardens.  Today was the warmest at 32 degrees F for the next two weeks.  It will be bitter cold by tomorrow.  It was perfect weather for Urban, Ron W., Terry, Pat, Larry and Big John to get outside and bring in more lights and other elements from the Holiday Lights Show (HLS).  This is a long process, affected by weather, that will continue for months.  Vern, Jim and Ron Y. continued work on their carpentry projects.  Dr. Gredler came in for painting while Gary B. continued his priming efforts.  Maury ran errands, Dick H. helped here and there and we also saw Rollie, Gary S. and many others.  Mary W. was in to work on some horticultural therapy fact finding and Janice was in briefly as well. Some members of our Horticultural Therapy Committee met later in the afternoon as well.

Notice directly above how nicely the cascading habit of the 'Aureola' Hakone grass (Hakonechloa macra) works to soften the edge of a pathway.  While any variety of Hakone grass will lend itself as a textural component as a solitary specimen or in a grouping, the varieties with additional coloration add more visual interest in shadier areas.  We use lots of the 'All Gold' variety at RBG for some "illumination" and bright coloration in our shadier garden setting.  Keep in mind that some dappled lighting or bright indirect light is essential for the best coloration of the brighter varieties.  Hardiness for this grass is usually listed as Z5 but I've heard many examples of this grass in colder climates with some winter protection and/or screening.  I've never observed insect or disease problems and struggling specimens have usually been the result of dry soils and/or too much sun. You'll note some varieties below that have summer tinting (red/pinks) that becomes more prominent in fall.  These are nice but keep in mind that the best tinting is very late in the season and some of the other varieties ('All Gold' and 'Aureola') will also get some pinkish fall tinting.  Regardless, there are about a dozen varieties of Hakone grass (Hakonechloa macra) out there and I like every one of them.  Understand that mature size may vary with the standard green selection getting the largest at 30" tall with a similar width (see directly below) and 'Fubuki' (see below) at only 12" tall and 12" wide or so.  I've seen Hakone grass used well as specimens, repeated textural components, container elements and as a mass groundcover with multiple clumps.  

the standard green Hakone grass (Hakonechloa macra)
'Albostriata' variegated Hakone grass (Hakonechloa macra)
a textural carpet of Japanese forest grass
'Aureola' Hakone grass (Hakonechloa macra) compared to the standard green form on the right
specimen of 'Aureola' Hakone grass (Hakonechloa macra) at Olbrich Botanical Garden (Madison, WI)
'Aureola' Hakone grass (Hakonechloa macra)
same as above in a container
'Aureola' Hakone grass (Hakonechloa macra) repetition
 clumping groundcover of 'Aureola' Hakone grass (Hakonechloa macra)
'Stripe It Rich' Hakone grass (Hakonechloa macra)
'Sunny Delight' Hakone grass (Hakonechloa macra)
'Fubuki' Hakone grass (Hakonechloa macra)
'Beni-Kazi' Hakone grass (Hakonechloa macra) - red tints in late summer (look for 'Nicolas' and 'Naomi' for two other selections with significant tinting)
'All Gold' golden Hakone grass (Hakonechloa macra)
'All Gold' golden Hakone grass (Hakonechloa macra)
'All Gold' golden Hakone grass (Hakonechloa macra) at RBG
same as above in a container
clumping groundcover of 'All Gold' golden Hakone grass (Hakonechloa macra)
mass planting of above at Chicago Botanical Garden
decent winter interest of Hakone grass (until buried by wet snow or ice)

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