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a plant i’d order: hakonechloa ‘all gold’

hakonechloa macra All GoldIT GROWS IN SHADE, READS AS SOLID GOLD, and looks good from early May to sometime in winter, I think, faded to wheat-color and partly hidden in snow. Even my beloved former cat agreed on this one: Hakonechloa macra ‘All Gold’ was Jack’s favorite snack-pack among thousands of botanical choices here, apparently delicious fresh or (in the offseason) freeze-dried. It’s the latest thing I’d order if I didn’t already have it, a plant I cannot garden without.

hakonechloa in snowI was watching Jack feast on a faded clump of ‘All Gold’ one morning, just before I sat down to tea with the Klehm’s Song Sparrow Farm catalog. Page 86 that year showed photos and profiles of seven varieties of this woodland grass, including ‘All Gold.’  It must be a sign, I thought: first the cat, then the catalog.

Unlike the more familiar variety H. macra ‘Aureola,’ which gets to about 2 feet high and wide, ‘All Gold’ Japanese Hakone grass is maybe 15 or 18 inches in both aspects. Even with the slightly shorter stature, its impact eclipses the gold-and-green-striped cousin’s, and I have quickly forsaken the one Japanese forest grass, as it is also called, for the other.

Though ‘All Gold’ will grow in dark spots, as with most yellow-leaved plants the best color will be had where there is morning or dappled light, bringing you more gold than greenish-yellow.

hakonechola in potMy favorite hostas, Japanese painted fern, Astilboides tabularis and other distinctive woodlanders make dramatically showy, season-long companions for the grass. I keep nine plants of ‘All Gold’ (Zones 5-9) overwintered in my vegetable garden for lifting and ordering into summertime duty in pots, where it is also excellent: no care, but all-season color. That’s seven of them in a 3-foot bowl in a very shady spot, so less gold and more yellow-green (above).

hackonechloaOccasionally some blades will go hot red in fall, a lovely twist, but if you want that feature there are varieties cultivated for their red autumn color, including green then red-and-green ‘Beni-Kaze’ (translates as ‘Red Wind’); ‘Nicholas’ (green shifting to orangey-red); and also ‘Naomi’ (variegated cream and green, turning wine). I’m happy when ‘All Gold’ simply turns wheat shades in October by my path (below). Klehm’s has them all.

hakonechloa in fallThe thing about this grass, in any form, including plain green: It’s got a cascading habit that makes it distinctive. It’s like a wave; never stiff, and never still. A mass if it around a tree trunk creates the illusion of a rippling pool. More is better. Think ocean.

Like the cat and the catalog say: highly recommended. And it fits into my master plan for “making mosaics” (a.k.a. successful underplanting of mixed groundcovers), too. That whole story is here, or watch the video first:

hakonechloa sources:

  1. Tammy says:

    WOW. Grasses have not previously been in my repertoire of plants. Possibly, due to my lack of space, for which “All Gold” will be perfect (so happy zones 5-9). But, I am also a little embarassed to say, because of my lack of “plant sophistication” if you know what I mean. This winter looking out at the “bare” landscape I decided it needed “something”. Thanks for providing the answer.

  2. Dee/reddirtramblings says:

    Margaret, I ordered three plants at your suggestion on Twitter. I love that color and know I’ll love the grass too. What is the Heuchera in front? ‘Lime Rickey?’~~Dee

  3. joey says:

    Love the shade combo and have all in the top photo except Hakonechola macra ‘All Gold’, which is stunning … very tempting! Is it iffy in zone 5?

  4. joey says:

    Love the shade combo and have all in the top photo except Hakonechola macra ‘All Gold’, which is stunning … very tempting! Is it iffy in zone 5?

    1. margaret says:

      Welcome, Tatyana. I think you will be pleased with any of the Hakonechloas, really. DO enjoy,and thank you for coming to see us here.

      @Mr. McGregor’s Daughter: Long time no see. :) I am a believer that a girl can’t have enough plants. What’s one more little grassy thing?

  5. balsamfir says:

    Macra Aureola was my plant lust from three years ago, and even though its a little cold for them, I’m still trying. My first one seems to be reverting to just plain green(probably hardier roots). I put two more in and am waiting to see if the same thing happens. Do you plant them in the veggie garden, and then pot them in the fall to hold over? Because this may be the way around the too cold issue for me.

  6. aja says:

    Ooooh, what a lovely plant. I am inspired and even the impending snow today cannot dampen my spirits!

    Thank you for this lovely blog – it has been such a happy discovery for me (the energetic and hopeless naivete in the garden) Indeed my current reading, Perenyi, I saw in your recommendations and then not a day later a friend mentions the book as well – it was serendipitous!

  7. Candylei says:

    How fun to see bits of your garden. I have h. macra too with hostas. Are your hostas Great Expectations or…? Our h. macra is definitely the oat brown right now. Most of the countryside is oat brown!

  8. gail says:

    I have been admiring this plant in a friend’s garden and now it’s time to get one or two or three for my garden;-) I hope it gets along well with the native plants~ gail

    1. margaret says:

      Welcome, Gail. Hakonechloa strikes me as very well-behaved (clumps, doesn’t run…I don’t get seedlings, either), so I don’t think it will choke anybody out. I know you will enjoy the beauty of it. See you again here soon, I hope.

  9. Kitt says:

    Lovely! Klehm’s has always been my go-to for peonies (got my first ones ever from them, maybe 10 years ago, and they bloomed prolifically the very next spring). I haven’t seen that grass before. Guess I’d better get shopping!

  10. suzy bales says:

    I often cut hakonechloa to add to floral arrangements. I know it sounds strange, but at the base of each blade of golden grass is a strong short stem that is easily pushed into floral foam or water. I have a favorite pot shaped like a swan and I use the grass to form its tail feathers. Spiky flowers can also be poked in for color and to turn a swan into a peacock.

  11. Greg W says:

    What a gorgeous plant! I have been wanting to get into ornamental grasses but have not had the proper place to do it. This plant just inspired my to get the shady side of my house in order.

    Thank you so much for posting this.

    The photo of the ‘all gold’ in a container really sold me.

    1. margaret says:

      Welcome, Greg W. If any one plant could be the catalyst for a whole area to become organized, it would be ‘All Gold.’ Can’t say enough about it. Thanks for visiting and hope to see you again very soon with the progress report.

  12. Enyasi says:

    Oh My! I love the color and texture. How old was the plant you showed in your picture? Just to be safe, perhaps I will order two. Many Thanks.

    1. margaret says:

      Welcome, Enyasi. In the top photo I suspect it was 3 plants (transplanted as “plugs” the size of a cellpack vegetable or annual seedling…not a quart or gallon plant) 5 years ago. I bought a flat of young plants, so it took longer but they were cheaper and I wanted a lot of them for various uses. That clump is about 3 feet across in each direction. I could easily divide pieces off it now. Thanks for jumping in, and do come back soon.

  13. Brian G. says:

    I added this to a bed under my old Horse Chestnut by the front door with some old Hostas and new-ish hellebores. The small plants don’t look like much yet but the color sure does pop in the shade.

  14. Kari says:

    Margaret-
    I am just visiting your site for the 1st time. I have a black, well, maybe a brown thumb after some feeble attempts, but I guess I need to start somewhere! I am eager to learn and am trying to research which plants would go best under my very large oak and fir trees. I desperately want to bring life to my front yard and love love love the grasses above. Are there any other plants and or resources you can recommend? Thanks so much!

    1. margaret says:

      Welcome, Kari. You are starting with the hardest part: growing plants beneath established trees, especially the types you name. Hard for almost anything to get its share of moisture and nutrients when the trees’ big roots are hogging all the goods. You must look for plants that will tolerate DRY SHADE (the worst of the worst!). Don’t know what zone you are in, but some ferns (not all by any means), epimediums, various other things will handle it…can suggest more once I know your location please.

  15. Kari says:

    Margaret-
    I believe I am zone 6…I live in Portland, OR. Of course I am starting with the hardest :) – that’s just like me!!
    thank you for any suggestions!
    thanks,
    Kari

  16. chigal says:

    Beautiful! I gave up the shadiest corner of my herb garden to ornamentals this year. Hakonechloa “All Gold” is a great alternative to the local sweet potato vine overload. I’ve got it mingling with toad lily in a south-facing, sun-blocked nook that mint couldn’t conquer. My cat loves it, too.

  17. Dorothyann says:

    Hello Margaret: I am speechless, I have so much to learn, I enjoy your blog so much, it gives me great energy to try everything.

  18. Faye says:

    Beautiful. What is the shiny leaved plant in the foreground and the scalloped leaf at the right?
    Just bought ten pots of this lovely grass. Think that it will be beautiful around a full moon maple ‘Aureum’.

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Faye. Shiny leaf is European ginger, Asarum europaeum…as for scallop leaf, the gold ones are from an emerging Heuchera ‘Citronelle,’ but there’s a small scalloped green-bule leaf below the purple fern to the right foreground, and that’s Primular kisoana. Your grass/maple combo sounds great…inspiring.

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