Popular in the 1970s, pampas grass fell out of fashion thanks to an urban myth suggesting plants in suburban front gardens were a code signalling the residents were up for wife-swapping.
Originally from warmer climates, there are 24 species, most growing between two and three metres tall, with fluffy plumes that can be cut down and dried.
Incredibly invasive, it’s banned in some U.S. states, but is now popping up in trendy flower shops at between £3 and £16 per stem. Some councils in Britain have even had to issue warnings against stealing it, after plants in parks, along coastlines and in gardens were targeted.
WHY’S IT BACK IN VOGUE?
Its newfound popularity is partly down to celebrities such as Stacey Solomon, cleaning influencer Mrs Hinch and ITV presenter Rochelle Humes, who all have several displays in their homes. Easily this year’s must-have home decor item, there are more than 554,000 #pampasgrass mentions on Instagram.
‘We’ve seen a real rise in the popularity of dried flowers and grasses like pampas recently, fuelled mainly by people’s interest in sustainability, as unlike perishable real blooms, dried ones are long-lasting,’ says Selina Kerley from London florist McQueens Flowers, who recently launched dried-flower-arranging classes after a surge in demand.
‘Pampas has such a lovely nature. It’s really versatile and suitable for both large-scale installations and just a few stems in a vase. Anyone can style it; it can be left natural or dyed different colours; and it looks good anywhere.’
Pampas wreaths, table decorations and overhead arrangements first started appearing last Christmas. But this year it seems we’ve reached peak pampas, with whole trees made of the frothy foliage and decorated with lights and colour-coordinated baubles.
HOW DO I MAKE A TREE?
This is not for those on a budget. You’ll need as many as 200 stems to make a 6 ft tree, costing upwards of £600, and even a 2 ft ready-made tree can be almost £300.
They’re also not for anyone with hay fever because the abundance of grass seeds makes it a trigger for allergies. Unlike pampas in your garden, as long as they have been properly dried, your tree should not attract bugs.
To make one, first bend a large piece of chicken wire into a cone shape, or use a ready-made polystyrene cone (from craft stores or Amazon). Place pampas grass stems of varying lengths (shortest at the top) into the holes of the chicken wire, working top to bottom, following a tree shape. If you’re using a foam cone, cut the stems at an angle, so they make a point at the ends. This will help them push into the foam more easily.
Pampas can be even more problematic than pine when it comes to shedding. Prevent bits dropping off by spraying your tree with hairspray — but be careful, as hairspray is flammable.
Not up to making an entire tree? Try poking plumes of grass and other dried flowers into a real Christmas tree for a boho look on a budget.
You’ll need as many as 200 stems to make a 6 ft tree, costing upwards of £600, and even a 2 ft ready-made tree can be almost £300
CAN I DECORATE IT?
When it comes to decorating, pampas ‘branches’ aren’t like a normal pine — they’re wispy grasses. So you can’t really hang things on them. You have to wire up baubles and poke them into the foam or chicken wire frame under the pampas. Alternatively, use other dried flowers to provide interest, or use pampas grass dyed in different colours.
You can wind fairy lights around it, but only use LED battery-operated ones, rather than plug-in lights. LEDs, which are brighter, won’t heat up — but make sure to place the transformer for the lights in a safe place because it will get hot. Pampas is already flammable — and spraying it with hairspray makes it even more so. After Christmas, take your tree apart and store the plumes in a box somewhere dry until next year.
WHERE DO I BUY IT?
Most local florists will stock pampas —expect to pay £3-6 per stem.
For a wide variety of sizes, varieties and colours, try etsy.co.uk, or for those with allergies coxandcox.co.uk sell faux pampas. Dedicated online sellers include thepampascollection.uk, threesisters farm.co.uk and pampasandbloom.co.uk who also sell ready-made wreaths
Interior designer Abigail Ahern has also created a range of pampas heads mounted on faux stems for easy arranging (abigailahern.com). While you can pick your own, be warned it needs to dry out hung upside down for almost three weeks before it can be fashioned into a tree — meaning you will just about be able to put one up on Christmas Eve.