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Hever Castle gardener Neil Miller's advice on ornamental grass

By Neil Miller

It has been a busy month at Hever - we had record numbers for our Hever in Bloom rose tours and we also dedicated a lot of time to planting up Acorn Dell - the new play area for the under sevens.

The gardening team have had their sun hats welded to their heads and watering cans fused to their hands as the sun shone without rest for the last six weeks.

The heat has been good for some plants and not so good for others. Like most of the UK, we have watched our lawns turn from green to sandy brown without worrying too much; safe in the knowledge that grass will always bounce back.

Discover magnificent award-winning gardens set in 125 acres of glorious grounds at Hever Castle
Discover magnificent award-winning gardens set in 125 acres of glorious grounds at Hever Castle

The Mediterranean plants have done well in the heat this month - the lavenders were good and the perennials in the newly planted Faith’s Garden’ on Diana’s Walk have withstood the heat well.

Perhaps the best performers this month though have been the grasses. We have had to water them a little but unlike the turf on the lawn, the ornamental grasses have delivered colour and vibrancy throughout July and promise to keep going through August. Acting like nature’s fan, the free-waving grasses have delivered a welcome swish of air as we weeded and walked among them.

Good ornamental grass varieties to choose include miscanthus and stipas.

The gardens at Hever provide colour and interest all year round - whatever the weather
The gardens at Hever provide colour and interest all year round - whatever the weather

Miscanthus sinensis covers a large group of grasses in varying heights. There are lots of miscanthus to choose from but we really like Miscanthus sinensis ‘China’, a deciduous grass of a lovely variety which can grow to 1.5m in height and deliver silky flowers in later summer which age and turn pinky-silver in colour.

We love the stipa grasses at Hever and carry a couple of varieties in Faith’s Garden. The stipa is a huge genus with around 300 grasses, commonly referred to as feather grass. Planted en masse Stipa tennuissima looks like nature’s duvet! You can’t go wrong with Stipa Gigantia - you can buy golden varieties of this plant which really make a statement when planted between Echinacea pallid ‘Hula Dancer’ (pictured) or agapanthus.

It can be challenging as a gardener when it comes to using water wisely, while still supplying the plants with enough fluid, but it’s perhaps more challenging for the plants themselves who had a real growth spurt in April only to experience the hardship of drought this summer. The early new growth has meant that the plants have struggled as they have had more to support than usual at this time of the year.

The newly planted Faith’s Garden’ on Diana’s Walk at Hever Castle
The newly planted Faith’s Garden’ on Diana’s Walk at Hever Castle
Echinacea pallida’ Hula Dancer’ planted among the grasses in Faith's Garden
Echinacea pallida’ Hula Dancer’ planted among the grasses in Faith's Garden

If you are watering your garden, try to use grey water and water in the evening or the morning when the water will go straight to the plant roots and won’t evaporate.

If you grow roses then please make sure you continue to give them a drink and stop feeding them throughout the dry period. They might not be showing signs of stress at the moment, but prolonged periods of drought will impact the plant and shorten its flowering time.

Faith’s Garden on Diana’s Walk is now open to the public at Hever Castle & Gardens. More detail here

Hever Castle gardens in the July sunshine
Hever Castle gardens in the July sunshine

The ornamental grasses at the castle have delivered colour and vibrancy all summer
The ornamental grasses at the castle have delivered colour and vibrancy all summer

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