Briza media: “The Quaking Grass” has blue green leaves and flower heads that hang like scaly little heart shaped lockets that are tinged with pink from late spring to mid summer. An easily-grown perennial Briza that prefers richer soil than most grasses and will tolerate semi shade well. Very easy to grow to perfection.
A native grass, that is worthy of a place in any border when its large quaking seed heads erupt over the foliage in summer. When first open, the seed heads are green but gradually take on golden shades as summer progresses and become almost animated when touched by a gentle summer breeze.
Briza media has graceful, pendant, nodding flowers, a wonderful cut flower adding elegance and feeling to summer and winter decorations.
Sowing: Sow in April-May and/or late August-September
Briza are best sown directly where they are to flower in spring. Grow in sun and in well drained soil. Sow 6mm (¼in) deep in rows 30cm (12in) apart in well cultivated soil which has been raked to a fine tilth. Germination is occasionally slow, so be patient!
Thin out the seedlings to 23cm (9in) apart. Replant the seedlings that have been removed
Feed in spring like ordinary perennials, with a single dressing of a general fertiliser. Even without an annual feed, most grasses will put on a first-rate show.
The more nitrogen grasses receive the greener and further they'll grow. This spreading habit is fine in a field, but in a garden they may become too lush and the flower quality may suffer.
The finely textured blades form dense, long-lived evergreen clumps, and forgivingly put up with winds, drought and salt spray. Collect the seed before it disperses to use the following year.
Once the plant is established, divide in March to April. It is relatively easy to propagate by division. Do this in spring, not autumn, as some newly divided plants may rot before they've developed a good root system.
Briza can be used as a cut flower, it will last 10 to 14 days in a vase. It can also be dried and makes interesting focal or secondary flowers in dried arrangements. It is particularly useful at Christmas when the stems and seedheads can be sprayed silver, gold etc.
To dry, gather when the heads have changed colour but before they start to break up, cut the flower at the height of bloom and hang upside down in a cool, dark place to dry. If dried correctly they will hold their colour well.
Architectural, Cottage/Informal Garden, Drought Resistant, Flower Arranging, Flowers Borders and Beds, Low Maintenance or Mediterranean.
Briza is a genus of annual and perennial grasses in the family Poaceae, comprising of around twelve species. It is native to north temperate regions.
The commonest, Briza media is a delightful little plant usually of limestone or chalky areas. Widespread in Britain except for northern Scotland, it is found in the wild on chalk, grasslands and meadows. It grows freely in damp areas of the fens in East Anglia.
Briza maxima has with larger flower heads, is the much less common Mediterranean immigrant and likely garden escape. It has successfully escaped into the countryside in the south of England but becomes significantly scarcer as you go north. There are few records in Scotland or Ireland.
The genus name Briza is taken from the Greek word briza which is a kind of rye-like grain growing in Macedonia.
The species names reflect their relative size: -
Briza minima is taken from 'minus' meaning small
Briza media meaning 'the middle,' because the plant is midway between two others with regard to some identifying characteristic such as size. (The word 'medium' is also used as a species name in a number of other plants to indicate the same meaning, ref Campanula medium)
and Briza maxima, which means maximum, is the largest.
Briza earns itself the common name of Quaking Grass because the flower and seedheads tremble on their stalks in breezes. Briza media is commonly referred to as Quaking Grass, while Briza maxima is called the Greater Quaking Grass in reference to the size of the seedheads.
The playfully noisy nature of Briza has earned it amusing names like Cowquakes, Didder and Dillies. It earns Rattlesnake for the rattle-like, heart shaped inflorescences.
Other names include 'Pearl Grass', Trimmling Jockies, Doddering Dillies, Doddering Dickies or Quaker Grass, the Briza or Shaking Grass.
Children in Wiltshire were told that if the grass ever stopped quaking it would turn into silver shillings.
Other folklore says that Quaking Grass only grows in places where a young (usually lovelorn) woman has drowned herself!
A Yorkshire name for the quacking grass is 'trembling jockies' and according to a local proverb:-
“ A trimmling-jock i' t' house
An you weeant hev a mouse.”
Dried in bunches, with its brown seeds on tall stems, it was commonly placed on the mantel-piece, as it was believed to be obnoxious to mice.
- Additional Information
Packet Size 2 grams Average Seed Count 5,000 Seeds Common Name Quaking Grass, Doddering Dillies
Wildflower of Britain and Ireland
Other Language Names IR. Féar gortach Family Poaceae Genus Briza Species media Cultivar Wildflower of Britain and Ireland Hardiness Hardy Perennial Flowers Graceful, pendant, nodding flowers Natural Flower Time August to September Foliage Blue-green Height 30cm (12in) Spread 80cm (32in) Position Full Sun to partial shade Soil Tolerant of most well drained fertile soil Time to Sow Best sown where they are to flower in spring. Harvest Cut the flower at the height of bloom and hang upside down in a cool, dark place to dry