Monday, October 12, 2015

Plant Feature: 'Karl Foerster' Feather Reed Grass

Physical Description
Botanical Name: Calamagrostis
Foliage: Long, thin, green blade-like leaves
Flower: Feathery white blooms with a hint of purple, fade to yellow and buff during Fall months.
Sun: Full sun to partial shade
Water: Medium to wet soils
Size: 3’-5’ h, 1.5’-2.5’ w
Zone: 4-9

General Information
This fast growing ornamental grass has a narrow, upright form with a clumping habit. Little maintenance is required once established. Additionally, foliage and blooms maintain good fall color and interest, primarily in temperate climates as it tends to act like an evergreen. Blooms last a significant amount of time and maintain an upright position throughout the fall and winter months.

History | Symbolism
Calamagrostis acutilifora ‘Karl Foerster’ is a hybrid of C. epigejos and C. arundinacea, native to Europe and Asia. It was brought to the U.S. from Denmark in 1964 and has been found throughout American gardens without becoming an invasive species. The species itself was documented by German nurseryman Karl Foerster, who wrote articles and lectures about plant identification, as well as owned and managed a 5000 square meter garden and nursery in Potsdam, Germany. Foerster’s nursery was controversial during the Nazi era, due to his decision to employee Jewish friends while resisting the Nazi insistence to propagate and sell pure, native German plant species. Karl Foerster also had a significant impact on show gardens and demonstration gardens throughout Germany.

Care | Propagation | Pests
Plant grasses in early to late spring for quick and healthy root establishment. Any dividing of a specimen should occur in early fall. Cut stems back to about 6” in height during late winter or early spring to encourage blooming during growing season.

This particular grass tolerates erosion, wetness, and heavier clay soils, making it a suitable specimen for ponds and stream banks. Unlike most ornamental grasses, ‘Karl Foerster’ does not self-seed due to sterility. Additionally, it has no known serious insect or disease problems, and is deer resistant.

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