Thursday, September 9, 2010

That Floofy Thing on Top

When you’re interested in gardens, people ask you questions about plants. When you’re interested in gardens enough to volunteer for the Horticultural Society, more people ask questions – of all kinds. Most of the time, people ask about re-potting their plants or how much water they should give their cacti. But, an interaction with one woman has stuck with me. Here’s sort of how it went.

Woman: What’s that plant outside with the long leaves and that floofy thing on top? Me: Cattail? Milkweed? Woman: No. It couldn’t be that. Wait. I’ll go take a picture with my phone. (pause) Here it is. Me: Oh. That’s purple fountain grass. Woman: It can’t be grass. My grass at home doesn’t have that floofy thing. Me: Well. That’s because we mow the grass before the seed head forms. If you stopped mowing your grass, it would get a seed head, too. Not quite as magnificent as the seed head on the purple fountain grass, but it would get one. Woman (to the other volunteer): She’s kidding me, isn’t she? Other Volunteer: No. She’s not kidding.

I was talking to a couple of friends about “that floofy thing on top” and Courtney reminded me that some seed heads aren’t floofy, they’re spiky. Since that weekend, I’ve been looking at grasses and noticing their seed heads. From far away, they all do look “floofy” – almost like a fox’s tail -- but up close, some are quite stiff and others are spiky. I don’t have any grasses in my garden (I took these snapshots in a neighbor’s garden) but because of that one conversation, and a couple weeks of looking closely at grasses, I’m thinking about including them in my garden next year.

What about you? Do you have grasses in your garden? Are their seed heads floofy, stiff, or spiky? Post a comment and let me know!

Note: Apologies for the lack of Purple Fountain Grass photos. I haven't seen any since my volunteer shift!


Marguerite said...

I think most people associate grass with lawn and don't even realize that grass is a singular plant on its own. I have only one ornamental grass right now in my new garden, a spreading variegated form bought at a plant sale. No idea what it is and no seed heads at this point. Thanks goodness, I'd cut them off if I found them, it's spreading quickly as it is.

Meredehuit ♥ said...

Fun post, Auntie K. I plant Purple Fountain Grass in my gardens and adore it. The only problem is that it is an annual grass here and dies under the mnay months of snow that we have. I love how the seed heads seem to dance in the wind.

Ginny said...

I don't have any grasses because my husband isn't fond of them, but i do admire them. I grinned imagining tht conversation about eh "floofy thing on top." Even with my very limited knowledge of plants it's easy to forget that there are others who have no exposure to anything that's not artificially maintained or entirely artificial.

Auntie K said...

Marguerite; I think you're right about the grass/lawn equivalent. The grass you're describing sounds like miscanthus sinesis. If it is that one, it will spread like crazy and doesn't have a seed head.

Meredehuit; Purple Fountain Grass is an annual here, too. I haven't been able to bring myself to spend the money on it for such a short period of enjoyment. Maybe next year I will. It really is beautiful.

Ginny; I might start with an annual grass next year, like the Purple Fountain grass and see how I like it. If it goes well, I might do some perennial grasses. I still giggle a bit about the conversation, and it was weeks ago, now! I love the imaginative ways people use to describe plants. I guess my mechanic feels the same way when I try to describe to him what's wrong with my car!

Anonymous said...

I am a master gardener and answer strange questions like this often. I always am amazed at how the people describe the plants. Your person at at least had the sense to photograph it, even if she did not believe/trust your assessment.

easygardener said...

Floofy grass has quite a ring to it! It can be a shock to meet a novice gardener - not a bad thing as sometimes we forget there are non gardeners out there in the real world :-)

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