Sunday, July 19, 2020

Ornamental grasses take center stage at the Virginia House

I visited Shrine Mont in Orkney Springs, VA during a survey for the new invasive Oplismenus undulatifolius. While there, I marveled at a 4 story building that seemed the embodiment of some antebellum fantasy.

In fact, the building was built in 1847 and restored in 1987, after it had been purchased by the Shrine Mont in 1979. It now functions as the conference center for the retreat center, which hosts workshops, conferences, and music festivals, as well as family reunions and vacations, parish weekends , and individual retreats,

The grounds around the building had been designed with simplicity and elegance in mind, and the centerpiece of the large lawn was a round growing space where a huge Miscanthus specimen stood, surrounded by four clumps of Japanese Blood Grass (Imperata cylindrica). Various low growing dicot flowering plants completed the tableau.

I love it when landscapers make major use of ornamental grasses, and the towering Miscanthus and its attendant plants certainly make for an arresting display. Images from a decade back show that the space had more taller non-graminoid flowering plants at the time, and neither the Miscanthus nor the I. cylindrica were present, so this might been a somewhat recent design.

The other interesting thing was the fact they had made use of I. cylindrica, which just so happens to be designated as a Tier 2 noxious weed in that state. This means that it is present in the state and is subject to suppression and eradication efforts, and that its movement is controlled. One wonders what the groundskeepers would think if the plants suddenly reverted to their wild all-green form ;-)

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