Ornamental grasses are now a mainstay of landscapes, whether it’s in your own garden, in a city park or at a gas station or shopping mall. This week’s plant profile is of a different sort of grass. Hakonechloa macra “Aureola,” Golden Japanese Forest Grass, is not the six-foot-tall-strongly-vertical model, waving in the slightest breeze, that we might think of when we imagine ornamental grasses. Instead it has variegated cascading foliage which resembles a miniature waterfall, with all the foliage growing in the same direction. It’s ideal for brightening shady corners of the garden, for softening edges of paths or tumbling over rocks. Bold, but in its own fashion.
The mounding clumps will reach 18 inches high and wide but Japanese Forest Grass is not an aggressive plant, increasing slowly by rhizomes. Foliage colour will vary depending on how much light it receives. In deep shade the leaves will turn lime green, it’s best green and yellow striping effect comes in partly shaded locations. Sun will bleach the foliage and it may become scorched. When cooler weather arrives in fall the leaves will become pinkish-red. Best grown in fertile soils with regular moisture, Japanese Forest Grass does not do well in heavy clay or dry soils. The plant will tolerate winter temperatures as low as -28 deg. C,
For a magical effect plant several of these on the edge of a path. If one is lovely, five or seven in succession will draw your eye and your feet along in beautiful fashion. You can weave it among other shade loving perennials like ferns, hostas and astilbes. It also looks fabulous tumbling over the edge of a container, combined with large-leafed foliage plants. There are several other cultivars available in the trade now with different variegations and colours. Find a spot for Hakonechloa in your garden, you won’t be disappointed.

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