We’re down to the last week or two before the ground freezes, and there’s one job I’ve saved for last, because it’s the most frustrating. Several years ago I planted three small pots of silver feather grass (Miscanthus sinensis ‘Silberfeder’, Zone 5) in front of a cedar hedge. The five-foot (1.5-m) silvery plumes were beautiful against the dark green conifers, and stood out prominently in autumn. I was pleased with the planting, and noticed in the second year there were more silvery plumes. In the third year there was so much silver feather grass that it was overwhelming other shrubs and perennials in the bed; in the fourth year it was coming up in the lawn. The original three clumps had sent roots in all directions, and I began to understand how prairie grasses travel.
I’ve never heard a similar story about this grass, and wonder if I was unlucky enough to get three pots of some renegade that isn’t ‘Silberfeder’ at all. I started digging out the grass roots, and was surprised to find a deep system of tough, resistant woody runners. It was impossible to get all of them out, and each autumn I have a major digging initiative to work on removing grass runners that have spread during the summer. The runners have gone into and through the cedar root balls, so I must excavate around the cedars and then actually get tools into their roots, trying to drag out the grass runners. This is not a happy situation for the cedars, and even less so for myself.
Because of this experience, I now make a point of planting only non-running grasses. I have another Miscanthus cultivar behaving a bit out of character, and that is Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’ (Zone 6). This is a gorgeous variegated green and cream grass, and everything I’ve read about ‘Morning Light’ says it’s clump forming and non-running (I made sure of that!), and doesn’t set seed. However, it has made a baby offset, about five feet (1.5 m) away. I don’t know if it got there by runner or by seed (I suspect it’s a seedling). So far, there is just one baby that survived last winter and went on to grow a bit this past summer. If I see a second baby, I’ll rip them both out right away. But for now I’m keeping my eye on this singular offspring. ‘Morning Light’ is so beautiful, I wouldn’t mind a second clump—but I don’t need enough for a prairie!
Other posts by Judith this week:
Posts by Judith last week: