When it comes to momentous, life-changing choices, I am nothing if not decisive. I had known my husband for precisely 5 months and 3 weeks when I married him. The decision to relocate to North Carolina took 30 minutes. We bought a house in two days.
Yet for some inexplicable reason, less earth-shaking decisions take me forever. A 15 minute run to the supermarket becomes an hour while I survey my options in the ice cream freezer. Deciding on a movie is an ordeal. But both of these pale in comparison to buying a plant.
I spent the better part of last fall and winter trying to make up my mind about 'Karl Foerster' feather reed grass. I knew I loved it, but should I buy it? That was the question.
I had read somewhere that 'Karl Foerster' did not like extreme heat and humidity. Maybe that's why it isn't as common in the Raleigh area as Miscanthus. Maybe it wouldn't work out, and I would have wasted precious time that I could have invested in a relationship with a more appropriate plant.
Nor was I certain it was the right design choice for my side garden, which, having crossed the line from "exuberant" to "sloppy," was in need of a remodel. I was in the market for a vertical element, and 'Karl Foerster' fit the bill. With an upright habit and a height of 6 feet in bloom, it would definitely provide some much-needed structure. Supposedly it maintains its form and looks fabulous for nine months out of the year, which is more than most of us can say.
But maybe 'Karl Foerster' would look too rigid in my garden. Maybe I already had my strong vertical element: the side of the house. Maybe I needed my sloppy sprawlers to soften the harsh backdrop of the house.
Maybe maybe maybe.
Once I do make up my mind, however, I become positively obsessed. So in early March, when I finally concluded that 'Karl Foerster' was indeed The One, I had to have it instantly. Nor would I be satisfied with a puny specimen from a mail order nursery. I wanted immediate gratification, which meant I had to get my hands on a blooming size plant, ASAP.
As late winter is not the best time to go plant hunting, this was easier said than done. Most of the local nurseries I called had no 'Karl Foerster' in stock; could I check back in mid-April? No, I most certainly could not check back in mid-April. Finally I hit pay dirt. Yes, they had some Karl Foersters left over from last season - still dormant, of course, but gallon sized. Yes, they would hold them. Yes, I wanted all four.
My grasses are blooming now. Would you like to see them?
The best laid plans of mice and men, yada yada yada. Instead of Karl Foerster's amber waves of grain, I am now the proud owner of four mystery fountain grasses - I'm guessing 'Hameln,' but who cares. I blame human error rather than foul play; dormant ornamental grasses look a lot alike, and tags can easily fall out and be placed back in the wrong container. But the fact remains that, far from being tall and upright, my new additions are short and floppy - not exactly what I had in mind.
Maybe I should take this sorry episode as a sign that 'Karl Foerster' and I were never meant to be. Maybe my new fountain grasses will work just as well. If they are really are 'Hameln,' they are supposed to turn a golden bronze in the fall. That could be nice. On the other hand, maybe I should just rip them out and find some Karl Foersters while there's still time to get a positive ID.
Maybe maybe maybe.
The Galloping Horse Gardener is a native New Yorker who packed it in in 2005 to live under the radar in Cary, North Carolina. In 2014, she removed to a new secure location somewhere in Raleigh.
Follow the Blog
Problems signing up? Send me an email and let me know.