Monday, 17 October 2011

The attack of the pampas grass

A bit like the day of the triffids, we've suffered a severe attack of pampas grass. It was only a matter of time I guess. One of the things about living in Orkney is that you find yourself requesting and looking for plants which you'd normally not give a lot of time to.

A bit like pampas grass. I can honestly say its not normally a plant I'd look twice at, no offence monseuir le pampas. But grasses really aren't my thing. And certainly not that giant one, often the subject of anti-garden guerilla attacks for a while when the 'anti pampas league' (APL) were at large in suburban areas beheading these relics of the 1970's and leaving a note.......they are getting more in fashion, the grasses, not the APL - and even I'm coming around to the fact that there are a few grasses I like, hhhmmmmm, likes a strong word for me in relation to grasses, lets just say, I admire their form and think in some gardens they have a good place for creating structure. I prefer my flowering plants to not need a microscope to see the beauty of the flower, therefore, I can't actually believe I'm about to plant any, especially pampas, but needs must and all that. A grand article here agreeing that these brutes (pampas) do well in Orkney, how lovely and a nice read!

Meanwhile like I say, despite my lack of enthusiasm for grasses in general, in this climate, I have to admit I find myself actually covetting these noble tall grassy beasts. An attack of the pampas grass, I say bring it on. I'd vaguely asked at work at teabreak a while back if anyone had any they were getting rid of. Its really hardy here, grows well and makes a not bad hedge which the birds can also feast on. OK its not the kind of thing I'd normally want to plant but when in Rome and all that - or in this case when in a windy island in the north of scotland if something grows like blazes, consider it for your garden, or go insane planting alot of things you love but you just can get to live. I chose sanity (well slight sanity, its me after all, can't claim to be utterly sane) And, Bingo - a peedie blink (a short while) later, one of the chaps was taking a pile out at home and voila - as if by magic (like in Mr Benn) a few days later a pallet of newly pulled up pampas appeared in a farm shed at work for me - to take home.
Now, I surveyed the scene - abandoned pallet of grass laying innocently in the shed - would it fit in the car in one trip or two? Well I heaved and shoved and coaxed and as if by some kind of tardis magic, a pallet of pampas grass did indeed fit in the car.
  I do like my trusty tardis like car. Even left room for my wellies and my trug tub of tools.
On closer inspection the pampas appeared to think it might like to drive and make its way into my own driving seat, in the manner of a kind of grassy stig. Hmm, I think not, a bit of persuasion and most of it was relegated to the back. Most of it - as I drove home most of the windows appeared to resemble the innards of a cows tummy, well how I think it might look if it was full of pampas grass.
I just hope it behaves long enough for me to get home and not drown in my own car, in an attack of the pampas.............when you see it all pressed up against the car window I think it looks a bit sinister ready to drown you when you're not looking or strangle you and then pull you through and drown you in a sea of long tangly leaves.
As I parked up at home, wrestling my way out of the car, safe from my potential 'death by smothering by tall grasses' journey home, happy with my new charges my son looked on from the doorway unfazed. 'What on earth have you been doing now, growing mutant killer-grass at work, (large chuckle) did they find out and take away your lab coat?' Walking off very happy with himself, chuckling away at his 'bound to be soon institutionalised' mother. Nothing I do phases my family, nor do they see driving home with the potential to be attacked by giant grasses, anything to brag about. I stayed quiet.

NO, I thought, dear child, I'm planting a new hedge of pampas to try and get some shelter in the garden - not experimenting with mutant killer grasses - although there's a thought, I do still have my lab coat....................and access to the lab......... I've always faniced a triffid.........wonder how that might do in the wind? Pretty but deadly eh? My kind of plant, definitely NOT boring.
In the mean time I need to figure out where to plant my 20-30 plants - I've an idea - outside the kitchen window so they can billow and blow in the gales and entertain me. I can watch the birds next year eat the flower heads if they take well - that might be nice and they'll form a nice barrier hedge for that part of the garden....hmm, decisions, decisions.


  1. Nay...I'm not convinced...yet.

  2. I know, I know. Hangs head in shame, pampas, I mean it's got to be bad if that's one of the preferred plants isn't it. As I said to my son today (having retrieved a libertia grandiflora blown OUT of the's like gardening on the face of the eiger. Not funny. I'm learning to accept things that might actually survive, like pampas.

    Life sucks trying to grow stuff in this particular garden.

  3. Fay, I'm sure you'll plant your pampas in an imaginative way and not in a desert of lawn like some folk.I'm being a bit smug but we never resorted to Pampas whilst living in Orkney....You know you need a mini digger to get it out if and when you had enough of it?!

  4. Janet, let's face it I'm desperate (!) and it's for a hedge. I'm leaving here in 3 years after which I'm sure the new tenants I'll love the shelter it will give. The ajuga repans is just about gone for the year, their little leaves blasted into submission. If it's hardy here, and thrives, like pampas, I'm going to suck it and welcome it with open arms. I'm beginning to be more open minded then I care to admit to.

    I mean, I'm excited about pampas, lord shoot me now!
    But if it works, hey I'm not proud. Bonus is the birds love it. Maybe I'm being altruistic ?

  5. Pampas grass as a hedge?! This I have to see... I applaud your flexibility. It reminds me of the Crosby Stills and Nash song, "Love the one you're with". Do you know it? The chorus goes "If you can't be with the one you love, love the one you're with". It doesn't scan, but maybe the Orkney gardener's motto should be "If you can't grow the one you love, love the one you can grow". And at least you know that within three years you will be moving to somewhere a tad more forgiving when it comes to what you plant...

  6. All that work with the polytunnel for 3 years? And then where do you go? I take it the pampas grass is not invasive in Orkney? Will make for a frightening hedge, it tore my arms to bloody shreds when I tried to cut it back. Yours must be a gentler friendlier version if you could share the car with it.

  7. Janet it males a nifty hedge. I know that ong so well. I'm learning in my outdoor garden, love the one you're with is the only option.

    :) no choice

  8. Le hangs eye, yup all that work for 3 years max. It's only effort, eh? Physical sweat and tears arewoeth the opportunity to garden here. My cover on the tunnel will have a 3-4 year life max anyway. I'm sure we will relocate in mainland Scotland, remote and rural, by the coast with the same/similar challenges. That will be our forever garden. The tunnel, orchard, plants etc will all move too. Hopefully to the forever garden. Until then we work, learn, work more and then undo it all and move it. It's only effort, I'm happy to put that in for my sanity

    To live here I need to garden, to garden I need shelter, so I'll keep trying. Or I'll go insane, I can't leave off gardening for three seasons.

    Pampas here, more vigorous here than invasive which makes it a potential winner, but a shredding nightmare. Gloves required.

  9. Sorry predictive text changed my writing elephants eye to gibberish!

  10. Maybe the blog should be called, 1000 days left in an impossible garden and counting, but still gardening?

  11. If it works...why not? I love pampas grass - it's a shame when a fine plant gets its reputation trashed through garden snobbery. Same goes for blue's a lovely thing, but just because every hanging basket in the world has some, is no good reason to despise it.

  12. My friend Tracy is adamant that pampas grass grown in the front garden is an advert proclaiming that the owners are swingers! Now whenever I drive past a neat bungalow with one growing in the front garden - I raise an eyebrow and think, "Well, who'd have thought." Be prepared for an increase in visitors - you're about to become very, very popular!


  13. Yup kininvie, if it works why not? I've no bad feelings against pampas per se, I am just not an ornamental grass fan. But, given it's usefulness and the birds love it, I'm really glad I got a load of it. Love blue lobelia too. can't be picky here, I think the garden will be full of those that grow, rather than are fashionable and as you say why not, some corking plants out there. X

  14. Dave, I've heard that too. Do you think planting it at the side as a hedge means 'makes a good scone'? :-)

  15. Haha, I love your blog and I'm just about to plant a hedge of it too so that's why I was reading this page. Here at my parents' house it went into the middle of the lawn, as was fashionable then, but I am going to start attacking it and trying to propagate it to make a wind break line on a bit of a slope that's no use for anything else (willow was a fail). Just have to be practical in Orkney. Mine isn't sharp on the edges but I've read some types are.