Black Madras Ornamental Rice

I returned late Thursday night from the International Trials Conference at Longwood Gardens. The conference was fantastic because of the information presented, the people I met, and the new plants that we saw at various trials. I have a new listing of plants that I want to grow in 2014 at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens. At the top of this list is the ornamental black-foliaged rice, Oryza sativa ‘Black Madras.’ There is a wonderful mass planting of Black Madras rice in the annual trials at Longwood Gardens. It is planted in front of the black leaved Pennisetum ‘Vertigo.’ The dark foliage is fringed with a yellow celosia and a light colored Alternanthera.

Oryza sativa Black Madras

The Black Madras rice was in seed which are actual rice kernels. The rice kernels are a chartreuse-green that contrast nicely with the dark foliage and flower stalk. The plants were growing in a regular garden bed that had been amended with compost and receives adequate moisture. When I think about growing rice, I think about submerged rice patties. Oryza ‘Black Madras’ will grow well in a patty like environment but it will also do well in a garden bed with full sun and sufficient water. This would be cool to try in an aquatic planter if you do not have the right place in the garden for it to grow. These rice plants can be purchased as annual plugs or grown from seed. In looking at various seed sites, it appears that you can sow seed in late winter in flats or direct sow in late spring into the garden bed.

Oryza Black Madras

We will probably start our from seed in late winter since we cannot plant our annuals into the gardens until early June. I am starting to think what I can use for companion plants around the rice. I hope we can even get some rice to set on our plants. It would be fun to harvest some and then serve it in our cafe as “micro” harvested rice. Well, maybe that last part would be a stretch but worth a shot!



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rodney eason

Rodney Eason - Director of Horticulture and Plant Curator at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, father of 4, husband to a Renaissance woman. I spent the first part of my life in North Carolina, the middle in Pennsylvania, and now I am determined to become a Mainer  while keeping my southern drawl. I consider the rhetorical question, "you're not from around here, are you?" a compliment. I love great gardens, beautiful plants, and inspiring architecture. Because of this, I am on a lifelong quest to find a garden that artistically combines beautiful plants while being centered around an evocative building. For me, this would be Beatrix Farrand's Dumbarton Oaks, with the plants of Lotusland and Chanticleer, around Fay Jones' Thorncrown Chapel. My wife and I are now making our new home and garden in a 130 year old New England house with a farmer's porch near the Damariscotta River in coastal Maine. When our kids get into college, we want to hike the Appalachian Trail as a family over a summer break. My likes (in random order): the smell of fresh basil and rosemary, bold foliage, India Pale Ale, good running shoes, Top Gear, the smell of New England in the fall (it reminds me a bit of English Leather, which my grandfather wore), and the sound of our family laughing together around the dinner table. I dream of one day owning an old Toyota 4X4 pick-up and seeing the Avett Brothers in concert.
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