The best view of our back garden is from the new clothesline.
This wasn’t intentional.
From the clothesline, the old metal shed barely encroaches on my peripheral vision, the green Colorbond fence runs off diagonally into the background, and the holly bush hides the water tank.
Nothing competes with the plants.
The main source for my daydreaming here is Stipa gigantea, its long arching wands swaying gently in the breeze, its golden flowerheads glistering.
I planted four of them two years ago in the main beds on either side of a path.
The largest one stands, by coincidence, in the exact spot once occupied by a Hills Hoist. Stipa gigantea bears no resemblance to our old rotary clothesline, of course, except that at 1.8-ish metres, they’re about the same height.
Last year was the first time my Stipa gigantea flowered. The previous year, I had Verbena bonariensis in these beds to provide some height, but the Stipa gigantea have a more clearly defined presence. Up close, you can look them in the eye and run your fingers through the oat-like tassels. Yet, because they let you see through their stems and flowerheads, they complement their neighbours rather than dominate them.
I saw Stipa gigantea in all its glory for the first time in 2017 – a huge specimen stretching right out in Beth Chatto’s gravel garden. What a star! Since then, I’ve seen it over here numerous times, and begun to notice subtle variations.
My plants came from three sources, and you can tell them apart. One was already quite large, and its stems are the most relaxed. Two of the others, bought from a nursery, are more upright and their flowers more delicate.
I’ve also seen Stipa gigantea with striped stems. Are these differences the result of them being grown from seed? Whatever the reason, they’re all so elegant. When in full bloom, they dance and delight, especially when shimmering in the afternoon light.
Over the past few weeks, new stems have been rising from the grassy domes of my Stipa gigantea, the old ones having been cut back in late winter (I resisted for as long as I could). Now they’re approaching the height that transforms how the area looks and feels.
As the days start to warm up here, those rising wands are casting their spell again.
I’m off to hang out the washing.
I may be some time.
Richard Padgett is bringing to life his design for his garden in the Macedon Ranges, an hour north-west of Melbourne. Follow his progress on Instagram: @richard_creates. If you’re in the Macedon Ranges, he also publishes a weekly email newsletter about local events.