Hakonechloa Macra Grasses In Layered Garden Border - Zone 5B - September 2023

One little section of the backyard garden where we have (what I would consider) 'good' layering going-on is in the curve under the tree-swing tree that features a mix of grasses, shrubs and trees.  The standouts are clearly the Hakonechloa macra 'All Gold' Japanese Forest Grasses that sit near the border and hug the curve.  I first bought a dozen of them at the Covid-year Morton Sale.  There are seven remaining here.  (I think there are five IB2DWs.)

See below for a photo of this curved section - as it stands in early September, 2023:

All Gold Hakonechloa Macra Japanese Forest Grasses in layered garden

There were these same seven Japanese forest grasses back in August of 2021 and while the growth has been pretty slow, if I look back at them from two seasons ago, I can notice that they've put on some mass.  The blades are more-full and seemingly longer as these are (now) showing a more cascading-look than they were back a few years. 

There are a few more things going on in this little section that you can (if you looked hard enough) see in the photo.  Behind the All Gold Grasses are - in order from front-to-back:

Three Miscanthus sinensis 'Adagio' Maiden Grasses. These are 'dwarf' grasses that I planted in the Fall of 2021.   Here they are showing some of their 'winter interest' in November of 2022.  They are currently full of green blades and have just started to put up their fan-shaped seed heads.  Their fine texture is a nice contrast behind the All Gold Hakonechloa grasses.  They move in the wind and provide some motion in this section.  But, they're also thin and what I'd call semi-transparent.  You can sort-of see 'between' the blades.  

To the left of the back row of the grasses is a lone Green Mountain Boxwood - an evergreen shrub.  The only evergreen in this section.  It, too was planted in Fall of 2021 and I've observed it 'bronzing' over the Winter...which lead me to wonder if it was, indeed, a Green Mountain variety after all.  That...is still TBD.  But, having an evergreen shrub in this section feels important.  When/as it matures, it will provide some structure and be around for all seasons - helping pay off the idea of a 'four-season garden'.  It also is a pyramidal boxwood (the only one that I have), so the habit is unique/interesting.  Looking at the photo, I could use a few more evergreen shrubs, so I'll put that on my Fall 2023 or 2024 to-do list.  

Behind the Adagio Maiden Grasses are three dwarf hydrangeas that I recently posted about:  Little Lime Hydrangea.  They're doing so well this year and have come into their prime with stems loaded with blooms. 

Behind the Green Mountain Boxwood are four more Hakonechloa macra grasses, but these are the 'straight' variety.  "Regular" Japanese Forest Grasses.  I bought these from Roy Diblik's nursery up in Wisconsin and planted them this Summer.  They're in an area of the bed where I have a number of legacy tulip bulbs that - while put on a lovely Spring show - have some dying foliage problems.  I was looking for something to interplant with them so that the dying foliage of the tulips is sort-of hidden in the grasses as they come online in the late Spring.  

And on one side..in the 'way back', planted right up against the cedar fence is our Apple tree Belgian Fence espalier.  It has just chug'd along, despite needing a few more trees to be planted.  

Finally...on the 'other side' of the 'way back' in the photo is a pair of Chicago Lustre Viburnum (Arrowwood) shrubs.   After dealing the (dang!) rabbits, these seem to have put on some healthy new growth and will - over time - mature into a lovely shrub/screen.

Over the years, I've attempted to learn about the ways to make an appealing-looking garden and one of the shared characteristics in the gardens that we all are drawn-to is the notion of 'layering'.  I've talked about layering before and have even deliberately moved some plants to try to achieve a nice-looking layer that features low-in-front plants that are staggered backwards.

What does this section need?  I'm thinking some dark-foliage groundcover like Ajuga 'Chocolate Chip' would work well at the feet of the All Gold grasses.  Maybe a few more evergreen shrubs?  Replace those hostas on the right side with something that has more four-season appeal?


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