June’s GBFD and Thursday’s feature: Arundo Donax

I feel like I’m cheating with this double post, but between Christina’s Garden Bloggers Foliage Day and Kimberley’s Thursday Feature I didn’t have the strength to choose just one… and ran out of time to do both.  So here’s the best I can muster, a feature plant which highlights foliage!

arundo donax variegata

A patch of Arundo donax ‘variegata’ in the street border.  The bold white variegated foliage accents the corner and contrasts the different foliage colors and forms of its neighbors.

Arundo Donax is not a plant for the meek or overly sensible.  It’s a large vigorous grass which overwhelms its neighbors and requires a backhoe or moving van for the owner who tires of it.  It’s listed as invasive in a few more Southerly regions but here on the Northern edge of its hardiness range it just comes across as enthusiastic.  There is a plain green form, but the ‘variegata’ is just straight cooler with it’s crisply bright color and its almost-as-vigorous growth.  13 feet tall (4 meters) is not unusual here in zone 5/6 NE Pennsylvania.

Arundo (giant reed grass) appreciates plenty of moisture but can also handle a considerable amount of drought.  It does NOT enjoy a late freeze.  Half of my patch surprised me by actually dying back this spring when a late freeze came just as the roots were emerging from winter dormancy.  Heat is what this grass prefers but just keep in mind that in the ‘Variegata’ form the bright white will fade to yellow and green when the thermometer goes above 90F, and if that bothers you chose the slightly less vigorous ‘Peppermint Stick’  which keeps the white all summer.

arundo donax variegata in perennial border

Arundo donax ‘variegata’ later in the season (August).  A relatively cool summer kept the variegation from fading completely.

You’re either going to love this grass or hate it and I won’t judge you regardless.  Arundo is not a plant for everyone just as Great Danes are not a dog for all households, but it does make a statement and I’ll leave it to you to decide whether that statement is a bold splash of color front and center or if it’s a rude, overwhelming haystack.  In either case I think you’ll agree it’s both foliage and a feature and if you’d like to explore other (possibly more tasteful) uses of foliage please visit Christina at Creating My Own Garden of the Hesperides on the 22nd of each month and if you’d like to see what plant features best this week visit Kimberley at Cosmos and Cleome each Thursday.  If you have the time you may want to consider joining in, there’s always room for one more and it’s always fun!