Garden in Umbria - Trimming Grass

Hair Cut - March 2022

As war rages not so very far away, the natural world around us here in Umbria carries on as if nothing is happening. Birds are tweeting and building their nests. The first lazy bumble bees are nudging the flowers of rosemary for nectar in the pale sunshine. Anemones, daffodils and crocus bring welcome splashes of colour. Ornamental grasses, left to stand dry and stark throughout winter are starting to send up new green shoots: time then to get on with tidying them up before they put on too much growth.

There are generally two types of ornamental grasses: deciduous and evergreen. They need completely different treatment – but in every case WEAR GLOVES to trim them because the leaves and stalks are usually very sharp. I got a nasty stab in the palm of my hand whilst taking these photos despite my gloves.

In the deciduous group are the tall ‘plumed’ grasses like Miscanthus, Pennisetum and Deschampsia. These go dry and brown in winter but make green shoots at the base in spring. Trim the dry messy old plants right down to near the base, being careful not to cut any shoots.

Miscanthus is a mass of dry stems
Trim close to the base avoiding green shoots
Miscanthus after cutting back

The evergreen group will retain some green stems but will have dry leaves and stalks that need to be taken out. Stipa tenuissima – “bad hair day” grass - is in this group. Do NOT cut the plant but instead find a tuft of dry stalks and give it a tug; if it gives easily then you can pull out this tuft otherwise leave it and maybe have another go later in the season. 

Stipa in spring with dry ‘hair’
Tug at the tufts of dry grass
Pull out any that come away easily
Stipa with lots of dry stems removed

The photo at the top of this page shows Deschampsia cespitosa and Stipa gigantea getting their hair cut.

Many of these articles first appeared in the Castiglione del Lago monthly newsletter “Qua e là” edited by Priscilla Worsley

All text and photographs © Yvonne Barton unless stated otherwise

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