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The Problem with the Thatching Reed

We continue with the Big Pond Makeover – or “Project Pond“. The problem I’m focussing on in this post, is the “flop” of the Chondropetalum tectorum (Cape Thatching Reed) planted in the bed on the left of the pond. On each side of the pond is a planting bed. Landscapers told me whatever I plant in the one I need to mirror in the other – and I agree. But it is tricky, as the bed on the left of the pond is quite shaded and the one on the right is mostly full(ish) sun. So getting the same plant to thrive on either side is proving a challenge two landscapers have not succeeded at. Which makes me nervous. If the professionals can’t get it right, how will I?

It’s gorgeous on the right. I love these three plants – they are stunning and I would have loved it to work on both sides. But sadly, it is not. Let me show you what I mean …

In the first photo you see the Alleyway with the pond/water feature to the left and the Cape Thatching Reed growing tall and strong just beside it – the second photo is a closer shot. See how great that plant is? The tall strappy reed that looks fabulous, is water wise and trouble-free indigenous plant. I love it and the way it looks.

And then, the third photo shows what a flop it is in the bed on the other side of the pond.

[one_third]Love them next to the pondI love the Restios here, LOVE[/one_third]

[one_third]Beautiful, strong and tall.Beautiful, strong and tall.[/one_third]

[one_third_last]Here it all goes wrongAnd then here it is all wrong[/one_third_last]

Here are a few photographs with more detail of whats happening with those plants. On the right of the pond you see the Chondropetalum tectorum grows beautifully in a mostly sunny position (even here, the very large one gets the most sun). And then you see in the last two photos how poorly it does when it does not get adequate sunlight.

[one_half]Successful planting on the RIGHTSuccessful planting on the RIGHT[/one_half]

[one_half_last]Taken from the other angleTaken from the other angle[/one_half_last]

[one_half]UNsuccessful planting on LEFTUNsuccessful planting on LEFT[/one_half]

[one_half_last]They really need way more sun …They want the sun ...[/one_half_last]

I’m at a loss. First prize would be of course to get the plants on the left to perform. I can remove any more from the tree causing the shade – it is already looking a bit lop-sided, so that’s not an option. So what else can I do? Replant? It will be very sad to lose or remove the three gorgeous ones on the right.

So if I was to plant something different, what could work? I’m considering Panicum virgatum – any type I can find. They are not easy to come by here in the Cape it seems. I’ve never seen one at a regular nursery. What a shame, they are so amazingly beautiful and easy to grow. Miscanthus perhaps? Also not readily available. I’m still researching plants and will of course be very grateful if anyone has a winning suggestion for me!

Next in the series of Project Pond comes the first attempt at cleaning up. Does it work or fail? Does my pond guy get to keep increasing his rate whenever he feels like it? We shall soon see … 🙂

Happy Gardening

By Christine

Dominated by large trees on a medium sized property, my garden is very shaded. With no “full sun” areas I have to plant shade and partial shade loving plants. I love shrubs and flowers including camellias and azaleas but Roses and Irises are my favourite and getting these to thrive is a challenge …

9 replies on “The Problem with the Thatching Reed”

I agree that evergreens might be a good choice. Or planting different plants on the left side that can handle the shade better? Sometimes slight variation is more interesting than absolute symmetry. But if you want symmetry, the lighting will need to be the same on both sides. Good luck! Your other plants look lush and lovely!

I know nothing about grasses, but it seems to me that you need a plant that will take full sun and also grow in shade, and I doubt many grasses will look the same in those different situations. When I have a situation in which I need a full sun and a shade plant that I want to be the same, I usually look for evergreens. They don’t all work, depending upon the evergreen and light, but more likely than a grass, I think. I’ve loved reading what others would do. Give 10 gardeners one area, and you would end up with 10 different looks! I bet inspiration will hit – maybe go to a public garden and look around, or mill around some plant nurseries.

Christine it is frustrating when our efforts don’t work out as planned. Mirror imaging is what we would normally do with our Summer bedding plants in the front garden. I can understand why you don’t want to alter the bed which looks so good. The shady side is only being let down by the reed. If it were me, I would just persevere until I found a suitable grass for a shady spot, no suggestions I am afraid.

I concur do not have the same plants on both sides…i think it adds to the reason you are not fond of it…start over and find plants you love and plant those…don’t worry if there are plants in the beds that you don’t love…find another place or person who wants them…i am pulling out plants I don’t like or want for various reasons..if you plant for the conditions the beds will thrive…

I agree Alan, and was thinking as I read this that providing the overall structure is similar, there’s no reason not to try a different, better adapted species for that spot. I like the sound of the Miscanthus. I had some next to our pond, and it does have a similar height, and overall fullness to it. I say mix it up a little, it can’t hurt to try, and hey, it’s the garden, if you don’t like it, you can always change it later!

The Dietes would sort of echo the shape. The tall Cyperus you have growing IN the pond will also grow planted in the garden, and would take the shade. Try it? Tongue in cheek, a matched pair like the left and right hand. I’m amused that THEY say you must plant matching pairs, but they can’t do what you pay them to ;~)

I don’t agree that you must have the same thing planted on both sides of the pond. Take out the one on the left. Don’t use panicum or miscanthus if that bed doesn’t get full sun for at least 6 hours, as they’ll flop too.

I still think that something with bigger leaves will work better here (see my comments on your previous post).


Are you sure about wanting a grass? If its the only growth form you will consider then perhaps Juncus could work, I have found it to be a bit more shade tolerant than the Chondropetalum.

Alternatively if you don’t want something too tall then strappy Dietes would have a graceful look and provide colour, and they tolerate great extremes in sunlight. I would also consider either planting a hedge on either side to create height and screen the wall, personally I like the formality of hedges but I realise a lot of people don’t. Alternatively with some small rawl bolts and wire you could soon have star jasmine growing on both walls, and even have it growing above the pond to give the entire alleyway a lush look?

Hi Chris, I’ve decided I definitely will add the trellisses. Still can’t decide on the beds though – I have so much Dietes in my garden already, I really don’t want anymore. I’ll have a look at the Juncus – thank you for the tip!

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