Article: Briza maxima

 in Cottage Garden Society Magasine, 2003



A grass for all seasons


My favorite ornamental grass is, surprisingly, an annual one. However, Briza maxima (Giant Quaking Grass) self seeds from year to year in a most useful (though somewhat enthusiastic) way, so my garden is now never without it.  I love the way the leaves take up little space, and are easily weeded out from where they are not wanted.  The many-to-a-stem, one-inch-plus, green ‘wiggle-waggle’ flowers are airily held on 3’ stems and catch the breeze to dance delightfully. Slowly, imperceptibly, they change to brown seed-heads, so remain ornamental for some months.  I like picking some of the flowers to enjoy at close quarters in the house, either on their own or with other things in a small vase.  I’ve recently started going to a flower arranging class and when I used some Briza maxima everyone was captivated and wanted to know what it was.  I offered seed and they all accepted….even though most aren’t gardeners, so perhaps this is the plant that will make them change their minds! 

Luckily, the plants produce plenty of seed and it makes sense to ‘harvest’ much of it or their self-seeding could be a problem.  I’ve sent seed to various exchanges but still have spare if any member wishes to grow it.  Just send an SAE to my address below. Sown in August it will flower around the next May, and continue the cycle each year.  However, I have also tried sowing in March/April and the plants don’t flower until late August and September but I still have a few looking good in the garden now at the end of December. Therefore you can have the benefit of flowers and seed-heads of this quaking grass throughout most of the year.


Copyright Carrie Thomas 2005. All rights reserved.