One of the impressive rookies this year was the Ornamental Millet 'Jester' (Pennisetum glaucum). As with anything ordered online or through a catalog, the pictures and description looked incredible. But, we all know how a little Photoshop and a few writers from the J Peterman catalog can make a plant seem. The Jester height and color sounded exciting.
The millet seeds were started indoors in late spring with a good germination rate. They flopped over in the pots, causing concern about planting and hardening off. After planting outside, the chartreuse leaves resembled nothing in the catalog descriptions, but after a month, the burgundy colors began to come out in newer leaves.
The millet put out its 12-inch long (30 cm) seed heads this summer after reaching 6-feet (1.8 m) in one month. Each of the 7 plants has 2-4 stalks, nicely filling in its bed. It is growing in an area recently reclaimed from years of ivy, so the soil is still a bit on the clay side, and no disease or pest have bothered it. Now that the seed heads have formed, each plant is beginning to send out new shoots from the base.
Millet is a grass plant know for sustaining civilizations, like the other grasses corn, rice, and wheat. It is still an important agricultural food crop in many parts of the world. There are five classifications of millet: proso, foxtail, barnyard, browntop, and pearl. My ornamental is the pearl type, coming from Africa and India. Foxtail is the type grown for bird seed.
Several comments have run in the vein of, "do the birds love it?" No, the birds are unimpressed, whether because the seeds are not yet ready for eating, the plants remain undiscovered, or the birds are connoisseurs of seed and hybrids don't make the grade. Most gardeners are intrigued by my rookie millet for its color and height; a few of its relatives Jade Princess and Purple Majesty might be invited to a tryout next year to join the Jester.
For The Record:
Clay soil with gypsum & organic amendments
Average to light watering
Small amount of organic fertilizer
Blooming: pink cosmos, mexican zinnia, nicotiana, cleome, zinnia, canna, cosmos, rudbeckia, phlox
Harvested: 1 pepper, 6 tomatoes, 6 cucumbers