Thursday, September 30, 2010

Plant of the week: Pennisetum 'White Dwarf'

Most So Cal gardeners and even non-gardeners know Pennisetum "setaceum" 'Rubrum' . I put the setaceum part in quotes as I think that the specific epithet is wrong.  Pennisetum setaceum is the one that you will find growing in the wild, a total thug.  One that I think can look very pretty, but of course it is a very invasive invasive, you know what I mean. You can tell the difference right away, the real P. setaceum has a rolled leaf and will cut you like a knife,  the horticultural cousin has a flat leaf and is safer to the touch.  Anyway, P. 'Rubrum' is that beautiful red fountain grass, it's everywhere which means for people like me, you have to start to sigh when you see it planted again and again.  So, it gets fairly big, too big for a lot of gardens. Ah but then there is P. 'Eaton Canyon' which has been around for at least a decade, it's half the hight of P. 'Rubrum' but not as intensely colored foliage and sort of dirty colored flower spikes.

Well, one day I was driving... I drive a lot, and I saw out of the corner of my eye a sport of P. 'Eaton Canyon'. This sport was totally green with white flowers.  Exciting!  So I went back and rescued a division of the sport.  What's great is that I believe that P. 'Rubrum', P. 'Eaton Canyon' and the "sport" to be sterile or nearly sterile.

I have trailed it for a year now and am bulking up numbers. It now has a cultivar name which is fun and descriptive;  Pennisetum 'White Dwarf'.  It grows about 33" tall and 40" wide. Don't you want to have one?  I see it being used by landscape architects en masse.

Take a look!