Muhlenbergia capillaris ‘Fast Forward’

I recently picked up a gallon of Muhlenbergia capillaris ‘Fast Forward,’ which may or may not be the answer to a pink muhly lover’s prayers. The PR is it’s more uniform and blooms earlier, possibly as early as August, depending on where you garden. It’s been beautifully grown, already carrying a half dozen blooms spikes. So I thought I’d use the occasion to tell you about the time I snuck some muhly grass into a narrow border I planted for my mom, and how she surreptitiously but methodically clipped its blades into submission to comply with a stern vision of neatness that I certainly didn’t inherit, which of course canceled out any hope of flowering — but I see I already have in a post from October 2013, which is reposted below. At my mom’s over the weekend, I noted that she “tided” an agave too that, to my eye, seemed innocent of any offense. It’s all part of a general wariness of plants that runs in my family. Boy, am I the black sheep in that regard. Or maybe that makes me the green sheep?

I’m very excited about this so-called early-blooming muhly, so we’ll see how it does. A couple months or so earlier in bloom would be a significant breeding accomplishment.

As far as seasons go, to me summer is rich, pungent, dense, where autumn is quicksilver, vaporous, light on its feet, with a tartness that is the perfect apertif to summer’s gluttony of sensation. The eaves are now dripping morning dew as the dry season comes to an end, with hopefully the return soon of prodigal rains, and the light arrives in glittering beveled sheaves. Summer and winter can each grow tiresome in their own ways, but I challenge anyone to find fault with those seasons that seem to gently swing in on quiet hinges, spring and fall. Purple muhly grass pretty much sums up how I feel about fall with its transformational buoyancy and crepuscular coloring, but it was a little trickier to find some this year. The big stands of it at the Long Beach airport were “tidied” at some point mid-summer, so no blooms this year. There are similar tidying impulses in my family, though in my case they seem to have skipped a generation. I planted one clump of muhly grass at my mom’s, in a long narrow border with agaves and other succulents, and she was surreptitiously taking scissors to the grass blades throughout summer to keep them neat. Again, the blooms were sacrificed. These big stands of muhly grass pictured below are in a hard-to-reach spot at the entrance to a freeway, safely removed from compulsive tidiers. I biked there a couple nights ago on the way to picking up some gyros for dinner. Muhly grass, pennisetum, sesleria and aloes are what I found, but at the link can be seen what will be back again in spring.


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6 thoughts on “Muhlenbergia capillaris ‘Fast Forward’

  1. What a beautiful plant, and what a lovely description of the feeling of fall. I generally have a hard time with the transition from summer to fall: the slowing down, the shorter days, and especially the impending deep freeze. But I’m trying to get better at just enjoying each day as it comes, and not fearing what may come after. Thank you for the reminder.

  2. Oh, an earlier blooming pink Muhly! I’m interested in hearing how it works out. Our season here in the PNW is not long enough or maybe not hot enough for it. Maybe this one variety would do better.

  3. @Simone, I’m with you — no fear!
    @Alison, that would be great if it filled the bill for a shorter growing season. For me, it was the opposite. Having it bloom so late makes it hard to justify its spot, and esp. for a small garden, because it’s fairly expansive too.

  4. These are magical, marvelous photos. I’ve killed M. capillaris a few times and assumed it just wasn’t hardy. I’ve been assured otherwise and have a pot full of seedlings that l’m going to coddle until spring before planting out.
    I love what you’ve written. Summer and winter are especially tiresome to me in the Midwest because they are so extreme, but the rich, gentle, transitional seasons are thrilling and far too fleeting.

  5. Gorgeous image of the Sesleria (yes?) backlit against the muhly grass! Have you been by the freeway planting this year? How’s it evolving?

    Interested to follow along next season to see how the ‘Fast Forward’ performs.

  6. I’ve no success with massive blooms for the M. capillaris in my area, and have quit trying to force the issue. I hear of another similar species that starts with “r” that is said to be better for the west coast, but haven’t seen it personally.

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