This article was taken from our archives. It first appeared in the November 1954 issue of The Bermudian. It appears here exactly as it did originally.
Pampas Grass is a particularly good ornamental plant and is found in many gardens throughout Bermuda. It flowers magnificently during August and September.
The graceful and ample silky panicles of silvery hue borne on stalks growing up to ten feet high add dignity and character to any garden. The leaves, typically grass-like, are long, narrow and stiff.
This plant, known botanically as Cortaderia argentia and a native of South America, is a member of that large and important plant group Gramineae, better known as the “Grass family.” Included in this family are the cereals, the sugar cane and all those grasses used for the production of fodder for cattle and horses and the grasses used for lawns. Man has made full use on this genus of plant life and without it our whole existence would be vastly changed. It is difficult to imagine how the millions in this world would live without the grasses when we stop to consider the important role they play in our lives. Think of the multitudes of people in Asia who largely rely on the production of rice as the main food of their diet. To these people life would indeed be difficult, to say the least, without this valuable member of the grass family. Likewise, the production of pork, beef, milk and eggs, the staple diet of the western world would be seriously curtailed. Our gardens would immediately lose their character and charm if the beautiful green swards provided by the lawn grasses were suddenly removed from our midst. The plant family, Gramineae may therefore be regarded as one of the most important of the many plant families to mankind. It is well to sometimes pause and think of these things. So much is taken for granted in this life that a little reflection from time to time on how much reliance we place upon plants and plant life is advantageous, especially to those people who have little regard for plant life.
Various authors have ably brought out these facts in their writings. The following words of Sir Edward Salisbury aptly sums up the situation. “A knowledge of plant life and plants is thus essential to an understanding of the world in which we live, and, moreover, our aesthetic appreciation of floral beauty will be enhanced and not lessened by a better knowledge of them.”
Although the grass family does not provide a wealth of ornamental plants, there are several· very outstanding species, including the subject of these notes.
Pampas Grass will thrive in most soils but a deep, well drained loam, or good, deep sandy soil, will suit it best. For the finest results, a sheltered position should be selected. Nevertheless, it makes a fine plant for isolated positions on lawns, but in selecting sites, care should be paid to the danger or damage to passers-by from contact with the very sharply scabrid edges of the leaves. The plumes are useful for indoor decoration and for their purpose they should be cut as soon as the panicles have emerged. They are best dried in the sun if possible for a day or so and then placed on clean shelves in an airy, dry shed until the stems are quite dry.
Propagation is best done by division of the plants in March or April and the sites should be thoroughly prepared. In the early part of the year it is advisable to trim the clumps to get rid of the dead matter which accumulates. Some people advise the burning of the foliage, but this is risky, unless it is done with extreme care. Although the burning does not harm the Pampas Grass, the flames may damage nearby plants and cause serious damage. It is therefore preferable to cut out all the dead material and transfer it to the rubbish pile.