There certainly are a limited number of ornamental plants which are so spectacular in their appearance, that they can really transform a garden from being ordinary to being special. One of these brilliant may be the Pampas grass, Cortaderia sellowiana, from Argentina. Unfortunately it can also be highly problematical to maintain, and even dangerous to those who utilize the garden. This can be a pity, because as an enormous ornamental grass, it really is possibly unmatched in its capacity to supply drama and a sense of movement in the garden.
The danger comes from the leaves of the Pampas grass. They are serrated across the edge, making them as sharp as a carpenter's saw. Actually the plant's botanical name, Cortaderia, hails from the Spanish word cortar, "to cut". That is why Pampas grass should never be planted where children will probably run about and play, nor close to paths and entrance ways. Considering that it can cover some 2 meters wide, it can only be looked at being an option in the garden, when granted plenty of space.
Another serious problem connected with Cortaderia is its potential to spread as an uncontrollable weed, so much so that some plant nurseries in the US have stopped propagating the species altogether. The danger only arises though when male and female plants should be found in each others proximity. In Israel, where I result from, we don't have this issue, as the plants are propagated vegetatively, from female specimens only.
The Pampas grass, together with its massive plumes, can reach a height of 3-5 meters, spreading outwards from its base to create a big clump some 1-2 meters wide. The blooms, specially the female ones, are particularly beautiful. Clearly, the role of the plant is that of a focal point. In this regard, general design knowledge and good taste come into play. As the dominant aspect in a composition, it should not need to compete for attention with other eye catching elements like flower beds, sculptural plants, or species with unusually colored foliage.
As a grass, it obviously associates well with other ornamental grass-like plants. Indeed a complete composition could be built round the Pampas as the centerpiece, supported by grasses that reach in regards to a meter in height like types of Miscanthus and Pennisetum setaceum, while a carpet is constructed of low growing plants of similar form and habit, such as Carex, Festuca, Liriope, and Ophiopogon japonicum.
Cortaderia is highly suitable for gardening in a dry climate where water is at a premium. It can manage pretty much with modest additions during the dry months, requiring perhaps some 300mm on the year. pampas grass large
Planted in a large bed of ornamental pebbles, it could create a stunning focal point, while the total water consumption of the bed all together, could actually be significantly less than 200mm each year. (200 liters per meter square)
Care and maintenance
The tendency of the Pampas grass to dry at its base, coupled with the difficulties gardeners have in eliminating dead elements of the plant, is another factor behind the reluctance to use the plant. However, that is another stumbling block that could be handled relative ease. The clump should simply be decrease to the bottom every 2-3 years, by way of a hedge trimmer, or mechanical strimmer. (Weed whacker) The task is best carried out towards the end of the winter.