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Graham Rice on Trials

Updates on trials and awards from the Royal Horticultural Society by Graham Rice

Last days of the pampas grass trial

Posted by Graham Rice on 18 Nov 2009 at 02:34 PM

Cortaderia selloana 'Evita' - the star of the Wisley pampas grass trial. Image: ©GardenPhotos.comThe trial of Cortaderia, pampas grass, has been both dramatic and intriguing. As it comes to a close, with some entries still looking good very late in the year, there was one that stood out above all the others - ‘Evita' (click the picture to enlarge). Except part of the point is that it didn't "stand out" at all - some varieties are huge, 3m/10ft tall, but ‘Evita' is altogether more manageable.

Reaching just 4-5ft/1.2-1.5m high, it combines vigour, dwarf habit, prolific flowering with plumes of good substance and also flowers as a young plant - a very valuable feature. Another notable feature is that ‘Evita' plants are female, but are not known to produce seed. I'm certain this will get an Award of Garden Merit.

One of the interesting things about cortaderias is that plants are either male or female so any seedlings produced will be hybrids. So when nurseries raise named varieties from seed the resulting plants will not come true - and there was some dramatic evidence of this in the trial; no awards for those entries.

But others that looked especially good included. ‘Highfield Pink' which was seen as the best pink-flowered form - and one assessor said it had an "Afghan Hound quality"! The variegated ‘Pink Phantom' also impressed.

Cortaderia selloana Silver Feather 'Notcort' - the best for foliage in the Wisley pampas grass trial. Image: ©GardenPhotos.comThose with variegated foliage must obviously be propagated by division and two of these stood out. Silver Feather (‘Notcort') is a white variegated form of C. pumila and the overall impression of the rather discreetly marked leaves was of grey foliage. It flowered well, did not grow too high (in fact it was one of the smallest) and its foliage was excellent.

The other good variegated plant was ‘Gold Band'. More vigorous than other variegated types, the overall effect was a wonderful golden colouring and the flowers were excellent too.

These were the stars of the trial and as well as identifying some excellent plants small enough for most gardens and which will give colour from both flowers and foliage, it really highlighted the necessity for nurseries to propagate by division and not seed.

I'll bring you news of the final awards once they're confirmed. In the meantime, take a look at the full list of plants in the Cortaderia trial.



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