(Update: I just realized that I got the name wrong yesterday – it’s Cousin Itt, not Mr. It!)
In addition to New Zealand Flax, Pampas grass is another plant that has been looking terrible all over Seattle after our recent harsh winter. I inherited a clump from the previous owner here, and although I have given it a wide berth in the past few years (those blade edges never fail to leave huge stinging welts on my arms if I get too close!), this year it was just too shaming to leave in its ruined state.
Doesn’t it look like Cousin Itt from the Addams Family? Maybe after he forgot to use shampoo for a few weeks and get a haircut for a couple odd years?
Lorene of Planted at Home, my new gardening guru, said that in its natural habitat (Southern South America), the died-back plants’ natural rehabilitation is succumbing to fire and then growing again from the ground. Although I briefly considered how fun it would be to torch this sucker, the fact that it’s planted against our 100 yr. old garage in a densely populated urban area made that kind of a no-go. I’d like to just get rid of the plant entirely, but it’s a bit precarious to even get up close to it, situated as it is at the top of a very unstable rockery, so the only other choice was to prune it back and hope it recovers.
Out came the clippers and a big garbage can was full in no time at all. Of course I forgot to wear long sleeves so the stinging welts were a fun side effect.
Up close, the few semi-healthy green leaves have a nice variegation, and the interior of the clump has this wacky pin-curls thing going on.
There were a few downed flower stalks, feathery plumes which I considered giving to my daughter for her fairy houses but then saw how much they shed and went everywhere, and decided to toss them into the yard waste along with the rest of the debris. Shh, don’t tell her!
The haircut revealed a large area of totally matted quack grass, my nemesis in many parts of the garden. Maybe I should revisit the burning idea after all, I’m not sure what else is going to take care of this area. I would never have planted this plant on my own, and now I’m worried that I’m stuck with it. It’s an invasive disaster in California, where it is choking out native plants and becoming a real problem. Click here if you want to read about how easily it spreads there and how difficult it is to eradicate. If you thought blowing a dandelion was bad, imagine one that grows to be 8 ft. tall and 4 ft. wide from every seed!?!
Before and After photos are pretty much my favorite thing about reading garden blogs and books. There is something just so satisfying about seeing a successful renovation of a problem space, plant, or entire garden. Sadly, this will not qualify. In fact, it might belong in a pruning Hall of Shame! I’m embarrassed to show this, it looks something like the horror haircut I gave my daughter in the fall just in time for school picture day (she had to wear a hat). I am only showing it so you can have a good laugh at my expense.
I’m consoling myself with the fact that I had to stop before I felt done, and that I will try to go back and make it look better. Any suggestions? A little more off the top and sides? Give up and just put up a screen to hide my terrible job? Maybe I need to face facts and start leaving my pruning jobs to professionals…
Do you have any plants that you feel like you’re stuck with but don’t know what to do about?