And The Award Goes To…Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’

Hakonechloa macra 'Aureola'

Hakonechloa macra 'Aureola'

Every year the Perennial Plant Association names one plant as it’s Perennial Plant of the Year and for 2009 the award goes to Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’.  (Assuming you’ve already clicked on the link, you now know all the site particulars necessary for successfully growing ‘Aureola’.  If you haven’t clicked on the link, please do because I won’t bore you with all of them here.)  If you are not currently growing Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’  – in this area it goes by the common names Golden Japanese Forest Grass or Yellow Forest Grass –  I urge you to put it on your ‘Must Have List’ .

I have been growing ‘Aureola’ for at least five years and I find it looks beautiful no matter where I plant it.  It combines with such a wide range of plants that it’s truly the ideal companion plant. I started out with five one-gallon plants which over the years I have divided again and again so that I now have about 15 different plants.  I use ‘Aureola’ as one of the unifying plants in my garden.  Your eye is immediately drawn around the garden by the golden leaves.

The cascading habit of ‘Aureola’ is perfect along pathways and patios to soften hard edges and it’s golden color brightens up shady areas.  While I’ve seen ‘Aureola’ listed as a full shade plant, I have found they do not thrive in full shade conditions.  My plants do best in areas that offer part-shade with some afternoon sun. I find the more sun they get the more interesting fall color they exhibit.  ‘Aureola’ is deer-resistant (in all the years I’ve grown it I have NEVER seen the deer browse it) and can be cut back in the late fall or late winter, based on your personal preference.

I will offer one word of caution however – when you see ‘Aureola’ in the garden center you might think it looks weedy and not worth the money.  When I bought my plants, way back when, they cost $20/plant.  Considering all the other perennials were going for $5/plant, it was an extravagant purchase.  So keep in mind, they may not look like much now but I promise you’ll be rewarded in a year or two with a beautiful plant that will become one of your favorites.

Photo courtesy of Perennial Plant Association.

14 thoughts on “And The Award Goes To…Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’

  1. Debbie, I love Hakonechloa ‘Aureola’ too! You are so right on all counts – it makes a gorgeous unifier in the garden, and really pulls things together with its sweeping grace.

    I’m so with you, too, about how weedy it looks at the garden center! Nobody ever wants me to plant it if they see the baby, but it becomes truly lovely within a year.

    How neat to discover your beautiful blog…

    • Genevieve,

      I’m glad you found my blog too and I hope you’ll visit again soon.
      I do think ‘Aureola’ is truly a hidden gem of the garden. It’s easy to overlook it in the nursery but a mature ‘Aureola’ will stop you in your tracks.

  2. I have hesitated to use this oriental-looking grass, not because it looks weedy in the garden center, but because I tend to prefer more upright blue-tinged or variegated grasses in my New England style garden. I love the color, but do the mature Hakonechloa evoke an oriental flare? Are the leaves as sharp edged as more upright grasses?

    • Joene,

      Yes, I guess ‘Aureola’ does have an oriental feel, it’s leaves reminds me of bamboo. I think it would contrast wonderfully with your upright. blue grasses. The leaves are not at all rigid or sharp like many upright grasses. Sometimes I’ve gotten little cuts just from reaching out to grab a leaf of my miscanthus as I walk by.

      With ‘Aureola’, the leaves are so billowy you’ll probably find yourself running your hand through them just to see the movement and feel how soft they really are.

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    • Cynthia,

      When Aureola first pokes through the ground in the spring, the leaf blades are the same yellow-green color you see in the photos. Initially the leaves are upright so the clump looks a bit like it’s gotten a buzz cut. Once the leaves start to grow out they take on their characteristic arching appearance. As the plants mature the clump gets taller and wider. Hope that answers your question. If not, please let me know.

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