Plant grasses to relax the mind and evoke senses

Torbay Weekly

Watching a green woodpecker spiral its way up and down the pear tree removing ants and grubs in between the cracked bark for half-an-hour has been the highlight of my gardening year so far.

Had I not been in the garden this week I would have missed this free, spellbinding theatre.

My son’s response to my proud story was to laugh and yawn disparagingly at the same time.

Had he been given the reality of my generally underwhelming lifestyle I could understand it, but not this.

Much of my week has been spent weeding and making a connection between feeding the birds and what they drop from the feeder near or far.

I have spotted numerous grasses like wheat, barley and corn this week, all fully grown where they aren't wanted.

Since time began grasses have kept us fed and sheltered as well as meeting other needs.

As with most basic organisms we have expanded on their genus to create ever more diverse types of grass to feed our more specific needs.

I was further reminded of grasses when walking to Cranmere Pool on the moor and coming across endless bog cotton (Eriophorum angustifolium).

Technically this is a sedge but we aren't going to fall out about it.

This actually looks like cotton and I believed this is where it came from for too many years.

Sugar, rice and bamboo are all true grasses that have kept us fed and even clothed since prehistoric times yet we don’t always think immediately of them as plain old grass.

I know many people who are very happy with a garden of nothing but grass. Some more ornamental than others, of course.

Planting different grasses in the garden can take you around the world in a day, from pampas grass to bamboo, bull rushes, sweetcorn and even plain old red fescue can all be grown in our gardens.

Men of a certain age and disposition can develop more of an interest shall we say, in the wellbeing of their lawn.

I know I’ve been at this stage in the past and found it all consuming.

While I might help out cutting the cricket club wicket, it's something I'm in control of and always leave well before the discussions about ph and soil levels start!

We might look at grass and only see the colour green even though there are anecdotally at least, over 40 shades of green.

Give it just a little thought and you will quickly come to thinking of grass as a plant that relaxes the mind and evokes the senses.

Watching a field of almost any tall grass sway in a breeze is a thing of beauty that would calm even the most fractious mind.

My first love in terms of grasses was bunny’s tail (Lagarus ovatus) which is so fluffy I imagine dormice might use it as a teddy bear.

It is easy to grow on sandy soil and looks extra special in a vase.

If you're lucky, it will self seed ready for next year.

What I have enjoyed growing and staring seemingly endless hours at is Briza grass (Briza maxima).

These seem to rock and shake on the flimsiest of stalks giving a mesmerising display even at the slightest change from stillness.

The passing of a butterfly would set it into overdrive, I'm sure.

Overall, ornamental grasses can give shape and definition as well as height and allow light to come through creating a kaleidoscopic effect in the case of bamboo, for example.

They can be stand-alone specimen plants and some gardens can contain only a collection of grasses and still be spectacular.

I'm not there just yet but I've certainly decided to grow a different type of grass every year.

This year it's Star grass (Cynodon aethiopicus) which you’ll need to get on your hands and knees to admire. I might not be over it just yet.