Now I bet you don’t know what a forb is, and nor did I until I sat down to write this piece, and it could be a good one if you play scrabble. It is a herbaceous flowering plant other than a grass.
My chosen plant is a pennisetum, and I was reading a small booklet on grasses published by the Hardy Plant Society*. In the introduction the author rightly points out that many grasses appear to be in flower for far longer than any forbs because of course the beauty of the seed heads extends their season, and sometimes … right through winter.
So this pennisetum just gets better and better as the autumn progresses; its fluffy, pink tinged flowers are shaped like bottlebrushes and are silky soft to the touch. It loves full sun and looks at its best catching the first rays in the morning, or bathing in the late afternoon light. Planting companions are many and varied; choose from sedums (and not just ‘Autumn Joy’!), asters, tall late salvias, other grasses, and of course the indispensable Diascia personata. Calamintha nepeta makes a wonderful frothy ‘skirt’ around its base. Good drainage is vital.
*This booklet has a really useful illustrated page showing the habits of growth of grasses, which may make your choices easier. I would encourage any gardener to join the HPS, just take a look at their new website.
NB Louise has published a beautifully produced book of her plant profiles – A Plant for Each Week of the Year. It costs £9.99 and is for sale in our online shop here.
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