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Monday, 25 August 2014

Fiorin and the Famous Orcheston Long Grass

In an earlier post, Steve had a picture of Creeping Bent Agrostis stolonifera and then he used the name of Fiorin grass. This name Fiorin was often used in earlier grass books but seems not to be mentioned in the modern ones.
The word Fiorin has some history behind it and was first mentioned by Dr W Richardson in the early years of the 19thC.  Richardson had land in Ireland near the Giant's Causeway and he learnt the name of this grass from local farmers. Dr Richardson noticed how highly regarded this grass was and he became quite obsessed with it.
He wrote a book in 1812 "New Essay on Fiorin Grass" which recommended planting this grass everywhere in Britain. (You can read this book on Google Books). He spent years proselytising about Fiorin and persuaded many landed gentry to grow it successfully.

Richardson noticed how the long stolons of this Bent grass were like long strings and he recommended propagation by laying these strings out and lightly covering with earth. He claimed that all these strings naturally grew Northwards as accurate as a compass. No one seems to know the origin of the word Fiorin but it was suggested to mean 'butter grass', on account of how the milk from cows that fed on this grass made tastier butter.

Fiorin is native to all of Britain and is mentioned in earlier grass books under its other name of "The famous Orcheston Long Grass". It became famous in the little village of Orcheston St Mary in Wiltshire, way back in the 17thC, when John Aubrey wrote of it in his book  the "Natural History of Wiltshire" in 1656.
This famous Orcheston grass grew long tresses of leafy stolons up to 24 foot long in the floating water meadows. It became so famous for its continuous, lengthy and lush growth that a 17 foot length of these tresses was presented to King James 1st.

1 comment:

Steve Blacksmith said...

Interesting Philip. Fiorin does sound to me like a Gaelic word. I admit I learned it from a book - don't know which now.

If I can add to your information:

I originally knew it as "Brown Top - Agrostis stolonifera" from seed mixes for fine lawns, as opposed to hard-wearing lawns. They have to declare the seed mix on the package.

I have read that to establish lawns with it there used to be a method using chopped-up stolons lightly covered with soil and watered in, which is similar to what you found, though I've never heard about it always growing North!