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Graham Rice's New Plants Blog

Graham Rice Garden writer and plantsman Northamptonshire and Pennsylvania

Editor-in-Chief of the RHS Encyclopedia of Perennials; writer for a wide range of newspapers and magazines including The Garden and The Plantsman; member of the RHS Herbaceous Plant Committee and Floral Trials Committee; author of many books on plants and gardens.

  • Date Joined: 18 Oct 2006

Colourful and compact new grass

Posted by Graham Rice on 14 Mar 2009 at 11:59 AM

Panicum virgatum 'Purple Haze' with Aster x frikartii 'Flora's Delight' in September. Image: ©Bressingham GardensSo many good new plants have come out of the gardens at Bressingham in Norfolk that as long ago as 1991 the late Alan Bloom was able to write a whole book about them. Now the story continues with this new form of switch grass, Panicum virgatum.

‘Purple Haze' forms a compact mound of narrow upright foliage which in late summer and into the autumn develops strong purple tints, especially toward the tips. And as the glorious leaf cloour is developing the plant is topped with airy clouds of tiny purple bead-like flowers. Finally, as autumn approaches winter, the greener parts of the plant turn yellow - it's an intriguing colour change.

Both Alan and his son Adrian Bloom found or bred good new plants at Bressingham as did others involved with the gardens and nursery. Panicum virgatum ‘Purple Haze' was found as a seedling in The Dell Garden at Bressingham by the garden's Curator Jaime Blake.

"It must have been ten years ago that I first picked the plant out," he told me, "and I consider it to be a bit of a 'wow' plant (and that's after allowing ten years for the excitment to wear off).

Panicum virgatum 'Purple Haze' in late July. Image: ©Bressingham Gardens"This is the shortest and best coloured of the panicums by some distance and has only upright leaves, like 'Heavy Metal'. It does not flop which is a fault, in my eyes, of many of them. It's flowering height is not more than one metre.

"Adrian Bloom had for some time assured me that 'Shenandoah' was the best for darkest colour of foliage, but my experience of it was disappointmenting by comparison. Perhaps it doesn't enjoy our climate. Interestingly, 'Purple Haze' still performed right on the button last year in our indifferent summer and autumn. In recent times, Adrian has changed his opinion!"

‘Purple Haze' looks lovely with late perennials including another Bressingham plant, Aster x frikartii ‘Flora's Delight', late pokers and Aster ‘Ochtendgloren' with masses of small pink daisies.

Panicum virgatum ‘Purple Haze' is available by mail order from Bressingham Gardens.

 

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on 21 Mar 2009 at 07:46 AM