I always try to be positive in my approach to writing, to gardening and, I hope, to life in general. At the same time, especially when it comes to new plant introductions, I feel like it’s my responsibility to be honest, even if honesty means giving something a mediocre review.
I hate to say it, because Pennisetum ‘Fireworks’ was a plant that I was really excited about. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it! I had seen the preliminary photos of it last year at the Perennial Plant Association Symposium and a burgundy, pink, green and white variegated pennisetum was RIGHT up my alley! A say-something plant that would rock the garden and the containers that I used it in.
Unfortunately, in every place I used it, it fell flat. It just didn’t hold its variegation well at all. In full sun (where fountain grass prefers to grow) it simply turned burgundy. Yes, there was some pink at the base and occasionally a little streak of green or white, but from more than 3 feet away it looked just as burgundy as the standard old Pennisetum ‘Rubrum’ planted just a bit further down the garden path. In more shade, it colored up better. There was more of the variegation and it extended further out into foliage and made for a little better show. But fountain grass doesn’t really like the shade, so the plants were weak, wispy, and by the end of the season, downright floppy with few to no plumes.
My understanding is that there are several new introductions of this plant that may hit the market as early as next spring (hopefully). Selections have been made for even stronger, brighter variegation and that bodes well for the plant. I can’t wait to see what the new plants look like and I’m certainly not passing judgment until I can grow them for myself. It sounds to me like we’re headed in the right direction–selecting the best of the best from tissue culture and moving forward with those as new and improved versions of what has the potential to be an absolutely stunning addition to the garden. Time will tell and I’ll be first in line next spring to give these new plants a shot!