Louis Raymond experiments in his own gardens like

a mad scientist, searching out plants that most people have

never seen before & figuring out how to make them perform.- The Boston Globe

…Louis Raymond ensures that trees can grow in Brooklyn…

or just about any other place where concrete consumes

the dirt and skyscrapers shield the sunshine.- USA Today

 
 

NEW Trips to Take!

Myrtle's easy when the conditions are right.

 
 
 
 

NEW Plants to Try!

Louis tries to capture the exact words to describe the fleeting but deep pleasures to be found in these Summer-into-Autumn incredibles.

 
 
 
 

New Gardening to Do!

Allergic to bees? You can still have an exciting garden, full of flowers and color and wildlife.

 
 
 
 

Plant Profiles

Variegated Common Reed

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An ornamental Phragmites?  Common Reed may be a scourge, but yes, here's one to welcome to your garden.  'Candy Stripe' is colorful as well as restrained, and is also one of the largest aquatic grasses to consider adding to your collection.  

 

I wouldn't be without it, sitting in a galvanized tub outside the main entrance into the gardens.  The foliage is predominantly white, not green, so the colony glows when backlit by late-afternoon sun. 

 

Not that it's bland even on a cloudy day.

 

phragmites-australis-candy-stripe-overall-6

 

Rain or shine, it's a warm and energetic greeter for the visitors—as well as for us each time we come home. 

 

 

Here's how to grow this glad-to-see-you bog grass:

 

Latin Name

Phragmites australis 'Candy Stripe'

Common Name

Variegated Common Reed

Family

Poaceae, the Grass family.

What kind of plant is it?

Hardy bog or (shallow) aquatic grass.

Hardiness

Zones 4 - 10.

Habit

Spreading and strongly upright.

Rate of Growth

Fast.

Size in ten years

A colony to six feet tall; width depends on lateral control.

Texture

Delicate and lively, thanks to the long, narrow, wide-spreading leaves that project almost horizontally from the narrow canes.  

Grown for

its rarity: the species itself, Phragmites australis, is so wide-spread and invasive that it's known by name even to the non-gardener.  It was a surprise even to me that there are a couple of ornamental Phragmites cultivars that are (at least by comparison) the epitome of restraint.

 

its foliage color, which is brightly striped in white and cream, with touches of pink on the stems (not very showy, trust me).    

 

its foliage texture.  Although the plant is the overall size of a typical Miscanthus, Miscanthus leaflets arch upward and outward from the stems—it isn't nicknamed "fountain" grass for nothing—whereas Phragmites leaflets stick straight out from the stems at 45 degrees, creating a n alert points-to-the-world presentation of a huge porcupine, albeit a soft and strokable one. 

 

its toughness, tolerating heat, cold, and brackish as well as fresh water.   

Flowering season

Summer: September into early Winter.  With foliage this exciting, the flowering plumes are not much of a bonus.

Culture

Site where  your would almost every aquatic or bog plant: in full sun. When growing in-ground, Phragmites prefers to be submerged in water an inch or two, but will also tolerate growing in a pot mostly sunk in water.  

How to handle it

On its own, it would eventually spread into a large colony, so plant 'Candy Stripe' only where control is practical, like in a container that sits in a tub or water or a lined pond.  Cut last season's canes to the ground in early Spring before growth starts.  Also in Spring, every couple of years, either divide and repot into fresh soil, or pot into a larger container.  

 

When growing Phragmites, as I do, in a pot sitting in a large tub of water, remember that below Zone 8 the pot will need to be brought into shelter after the first frost or two: The plant wouldn't be hardy in a pot above-ground.  And so by November, I've cut the canes down to the ground and lugged the pot into the basement, where it sits dormant through the long Winter.  Such "basement pots" are so dormant they don't need to sit in water but, even so, shouldn't be allowed to get dry.  Either set the pot in a saucer of water or water it every few weeks as needed.

Downsides

The straight species should never be planted because it's so difficult to control.  'Candy Stripe' is much less rambunctious, but also shouldn't be planted in-ground where it could spread into native plantings.  In my experience, self-seeding isn't a problem.

Variants

Surprising for a plant that grows world-wide and is therefore visible to millions—by the millions—almost no ornamental Phragmites have been found or hybridized.  There is, however, also an 'Aurea' with, appropriately golden foliage.  I'm starting up a pot of it next year. 

Availability

On-line and, occasionally, at pond-and-garden retailers.

Propagation

By division in Spring.

Native habitat

Phragmites has a subspecies native to both the New and Old Worlds, although the two differ only minutely.  The Old World version, P. australis subsp. australis, is widely established in North America, and is thought to be out-competing the native P. australis subsp. americanus.   

 
 
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