With my wifeâ€™s lead, we have always found room in our gardens for ornamental grasses. There are very few we wouldnâ€™t invite, so we happily picked up this little fellow at a local nursery. And it was little back then, looking more like a stray tuft of lawn potted up in error. The label was interesting and because we had never heard of it before â€“ always a hallmark of plant nerdism – we brought it home. We actually bought two of them but didnâ€™t know it at the time. The plant in the picture had the erroneous label and The Age of Aquarius must have been playing because it could not have been more ideally sited, all by accident.
It has the common name â€œmoor grassâ€, though I have not heard it being used. Its formal name is Molinia caerulea â€˜Skyracerâ€™. When said together, the botanical name will flow off your tongue. The first name is pronounced moe-lee-nee-uh and is usually referred by it and not a common name. Donâ€™t be intimidated by the species name but pronounce it sir-oo-lee-uh and it means blue, in reference to the color of the leaves early in the season. Like many blue-leaved Hostas, Moliniaâ€™s leaves will later green up.
And its leaves are truly magnificent. They are long and erupt from the center crown. Up and then down they flow, like a botanical waterfall. I canâ€™t think of any hardy grass with similar foliage. But there is another plant that produces a similar effect. Yuccas and Agaves are considered â€œwoody liliesâ€ and another member of that group is Nolina. When young, the two plants are very similar. Hmm, Molinia and Nolina. Could the plant namers be having fun with us? I just made that up but itâ€™s funny to think about.
In late summer Molinia will start producing its flowers. At first they are nestled among the leaves and are very ho-humish. But they quickly push upward until they are towering, at seven feet and taller. After the first hard frost, Molinia will change color to straw. It is the only grass I trim back in the fall because the leaves and stems quickly shatter, scattering its mess about.
Iâ€™m guessing this variety was named because the flowering culms rapidly ascend, looking like skyrockets exploding above the leaves. But when I look at my plant that isnâ€™t what I see. Mine reaches upward with long thin fingers, intent on detaching an important and vital part of itself skyward, celestial-bound.