The Island Bed's Early Days

In the very early days of my garden the Island Bed was smaller. A grass path curved past the Westerland rose up the slope to the back. A huge Pampas Grass held pride of place in the middle, and there were a couple of large, scruffy Pittosporums nearby.

 I like the colour combination of foxgloves and rose.
westerland rose - from the archives

Red and yellow dahlias filled up the gaps from summer on. A large pink Azalea shrub did for spring, plus patches of blue muscari and red tulips.

 An archives photograph.
Viburnum Rhytidophyllum

Do I Remember?

That's about all I can remember about the original plantings. That Pampas Grass certainly had impact, but I have much stronger memories of my very first meeting with the ubiqitous little weed called shot-weed. Aargh!

According to my early journal, in the autumn of 1999 the Island Bed joined forces with the narrow strip of garden next-door. This added an early flowering Prunus, and several other rough and messy shrubs, including a Viburnum rhytidophyllum.

The Pampas grass kept getting wider and weaker, dying off in the middle. The odd snow storm in winter didn't help. Both it and the Choisya shrub were threatened each year with extermination, usually in summer when their messiness was most evident.

Finally the Pampas just became too messy and was 'moved on'. But the Choisya survives to this day. Phew! The winter snows do damage it, but even after a hard pruning it just bounces back.

So did I plant the original one? I think so. Oops. How the memory fades with time...

Pampas Grass - from the archives

My early photographs show shrubs of modest size, beautiful feathery plumes of Cordateria, and red dahlias. My Island Bed hasn't really changed that much, as the many pictures taken of its front, a back, and east and west 'sides' show. Mind you, you'd notice huge differences standing in the very middle.

 An archive photograph.
Pampas Grass - Cortaderia

A Shrubby Island

It's still a shrubby island in the house lawn, the same shape as before. A few rhododendrons have successfully popped in, while roses, tulips, and hydrangeas have come and gone. You can always count on those dahlias to just keep on clumping out and multiplying.

But back to the Pampas Grass. I've always associated the plumes of Cortaderia, or Pampas Grass, with my childhood. We used to strap them to the backs of our bicycles like huge standards. The adults would use them in dried arrangements in the house vases - much more boring!

NZ or Argentina?

There has been some debate as to whether this and other Pampas grasses planted in my garden when I arrived were the New Zealand or the Argentinean variety, or even a hybrid of the two (this is quite common). I suspect the Argentinean.

There are ways to tell - like whether or not the plumes have pinkish or golden tones, and the time of year they appear. Both these photographs are from the archives, so you can't trust their colours.

 All the trees behind are so small!
The Island Bed with Pampas Grass - 2002