News Corp Australia

This may be why people think you're a swinger

IT WAS a plant that was once a staple of front gardens. Standing tall and erect, it certainly made an impression on the neighbours.

Unexpectedly for some, however, the impression it made was that the homeowner was a secret swinger. It has become a scandalous shrub.

Sales of Pampas grass, once an exotic favourite of British suburban front yards, has plummeted in recent years.

And it's chiefly due to the plant's unfortunate association with the kind of people whose idea of a fun Saturday night is dropping the car keys into a bowl and leaving with someone other than their partner.

One nursery based in the English county of Kent said it was selling as many of 550 of the plants a year decade ago. Today annual sells have fallen to just 250.

It is now one of Palmstead Nurseries' least favourite grass varieties.

Nick Coslett, the nursery's marketing manager, told the UK's Telegraph that Pampas grass had become passé because it had become widely known that displaying the plant outside the house was a signal that swingers resided inside.

Pampas Grass is classified as a weed in Australia but in Britain is once a prized front garden must-have.
Pampas Grass is classified as a weed in Australia but in Britain is once a prized front garden must-have. News Limited

"I've got no evidence that it was ever actually used for that - I think it goes back to the fact that it was planted in people's front gardens," he said.

"But there is that connotation, unfortunately. It's all part of that 1970s, kitsch feel."

British TV personality, Mariella Frostrup, said that she had inadvertently outed herself as swinger by planting the grass in front of her house which led to some curious attention from her neighbours.

Steve Dawson, a buyer for gardening website Crocus, said they now only sold a fraction of the Pampas grasses that they did in the past.

"A lot of people used to put it in their front gardens - I think people are probably a bit embarrassed about doing that now," he told the Telegraph.

The long lived and hardy pampas grass isn't exactly a shrink violet. It grows around 1.5 metres across with its distinctive plumed flower heads stretching up to six metres high.

While once in fashion in Britain, Pampas grass is nothing but a pesky weed in Australia.

The NSW Department of Primary Industries says the grass is a "major threat" to national parks in and around Sydney and the Central Coast.

"Once established, the plant is very competitive, restricting the establishment of native trees, and can becomes a fire hazard and harbour vermin."

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