|Pampas in full autumn glory - possibly 'Sunningdale Silver'|
|Cortaderia look good with exotics such as these Canna 'Assaut'|
Only recently did I discover that pampas had a hidden or maybe not so hidden meaning. Back in the 1960's, which is of course very much pre-internet days, when swinging had an upsurge, it is said that planting a pampas grass in your front garden was an indication to the like-minded that you were open to offers. I didn't know that. I have to admit that I do have a pampas in my front garden, although it is a rather refined C. richardii and I'm not removing it. I'll plead the 5th!
|Cortaderia richardii but not my front garden!|
Cortaderia come mainly from South America with a few from New Zealand. They are evergreen grasses. Plants can be male, female or bisexual and this does sometimes affect their habit of growth. Inevitably it will be more apparent in batches grown from seed, rather than named cultivars. A mature specimen of Cortaderia selloana 'Sunningdale Silver' in full plumage at 3m (10ft) tall is a stunning sight. For gardens with limited space, there are compact cultivars, such as 'Pumila' which reaches a more acceptable 1.2m. The cultivar 'Caminea Rendatleri' or 'Pink Feather' is another tall one, but with pink tinted flowers.
|Pampas in the heat of Palm Springs - equally successful - tall and short cultivars|
|The smokey pink of 'Rendatleri'|
Some modern cultivars are grown for their foliage. 'Aureolineata', often sold as 'Gold Band' is mainly grown for its striped golden foliage and 'Albolineata', 'Silver Stripe' for its white variegated leaves. Both are good, reasonably compact foliage plants with some flower.
|'Gold Band' as a highlight in the hot borders in the Millennium Garden|
|Close up of foliage of 'Gold Band'|
|'Silver Stripe' - sorry - couldn't find a better picture and my own plant is still under snow!|
Pampas looks good well into the winter as the dramatic seedheads hang on for ages but eventually they become rain sodden, the stems snap and by late winter they are a mess and need tidying up. The ragged, saw-toothed leaves make this a slightly hazardous operation, no doubt leading to the rather drastic tradition of burning out the centre of pampas. This involved setting fire to the dry leaves and stems in the middle of the plant which does effectively clean out the dead material but can't do much good to the live surrounding tissues! Like many tough garden plants, it survives this process, although one cannot recommend it.
|Not to be recommended!|
Well I'm off for a walk as there's a glimmer of sunshine and besides I want to see who else grows pampas in their front gardens - just curious!