Gardeners love to share plants and, about three years ago I received a chunk of Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’ – aka gold Japanese forest grass in exchange for a division of thyme from my gardens. When I received this trade I was not quite sure where to place the shade-tolerant ornamental grass but it soon found a new home near a huge oak tree – a dark spot in my Connecticut garden that needed a bright punch.
The new transplant grew slowly that first season and I was not convinced it would survive the winter.The following spring brought a pleasant surprise.
Though not initially enamored with the coloring of Hakonechloa, the grass soon grew on me. Its drooping leaves swayed gently in the breeze. Its gentle, pale yellow and green hues added soft, bright color to an otherwise darker group of foliage, without screaming look at me!
Then oak tree had to come down to allow more sun to reach our rooftop solar panels. With that huge tree – at least 80 feet tall – gone, the area took on a whole new look. No longer overshadowed by the massive tree trunk, the hakonechloa grass and fellow perennial plantings became the focus, rather than under-plantings.
With new-found sunlight, the plantings showed renewed vigor. The pale yellow tones of the hakonechloa grass played well with the creamy variegation of adjacent carex, and offset the pale green lichen covering a nearby granite boulder. The creamy hues of the grass perfectly matched those of the tickseed coreopsis blooms at the front of the bed.
The area is still developing. A small hypericum bush (left center) has yet to come into its own, a low-bush blueberry (right center) should now spread its wings without the competition for water and nutrients from the giant oak. To the left of the hakone, a climbing hydrangea that once grew up the oak trunk will soon cover the remaining stump and wend its way along closer to the ground, and the carex will need some thinning so it doesn’t overrun other plantings. But the hakonechloa grass I was initially apprehensive of has become the anchor to this area.
Now, each time I look out from the front of my house, I catch a glimpse of the hakonechloa grass, enjoy how its presence pulls its neighboring plants together into a cohesive group, and think of Debbie, from A Garden of Possibilities. Her hakone division is another gardening gift that keeps giving … well worth my thyme in trade.