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.