What happens when venues say no?Photo: Carlie Statsky @carliestatsky Trend-savvy brides do love pampas grass. But many wedding and event centers in California do not, as Christine discovered. Her exposure to controversy started when a member of her design team suggested astilbe as the featured flower for a Pampas Grass Circle Ceremony photo shoot. Christine is a former ballerina who now aims to create bouquets and other floral designs with the same breathtaking beauty as ballet. As her designs featured here abundantly demonstrate, she firmly believes floral designers are hired to create pretty. Astilbe is pretty. And pretty expensive. “I want to start trends. When I see the same photos over and over I get tired of it.” “Haha, I said, if you want to pay for it, no problem!” remembers Christine of the astilbe suggestion. “I suggested pampas grass as a cost-effective alternative.” She wasn’t expecting a backlash when she selected pampas grass. But she got one.
Solving the pampas grass challengesPhoto: Carlie Statsky @carliestatsky “At first it was no problem,” says Christine. Then a venue in Big Sur banned her from their property. Ouch. “Big Sur has pampas grass on its hillsides,” Christine continues. “Conservationists say it is an invasive plant not native to the coastline.” Each plume can give off thousands of seeds. And it thrives in California. Other vendors simply asked her to no longer use it. She was glad to comply. Her solution? “The pampas grass I use is purchased, bleached and does not have the seeds that scatter about,” she explains. “Many did not know that.” “I understand the concern and have gladly found a safe way to design with the pretty grass.” She now only uses commercially dried pampas grass that is bleached and unable to propagate. If sites for your events still balk at even non-propagating pampas, you’ll find suggested alternatives further down.
A base of water-soaked cagesPhoto: Carlie Statsky @carliestatsky Regardless of the setting or chosen design materials, Christine found that for a circular design to be placed on the floor or ground, a base of jumbo cages is best. Designer blocks (also available in Midnight foam) work well on grass or sand where water drainage isn’t a concern. “We transport the cages dry and soak them in water when we arrive to our event,” she explains. “That way the weight is light and easy.” Once the cages are water-soaked they work really well for holding the standing pampas grass. You can easily add any product to complete the design. “The pampas grass stands tall and the sides of the cages are disguised with greens and flowers,” she explains. “The water-soaked bricks make a very sturdy base that won’t fall over.”
Installation and striking are a breeze!Photo: Studio Castillero Planner: Big Sur Weddings It takes approximately three to four hours to create the design on site. The installation is completed no less than one hour before the ceremony begins. Using the jumbo cages, striking (takedown or event removal) is a breeze according to Christine. Photo: Studio Castillero Planner: Big Sur Weddings Floral cages were used for the above ceremony design in Pebble Beach, making it easy to dismantle the circle ceremony design afterward. And it was reused. The tall pampas grass was removed and the remaining design moved to a dining table for the couple’s surprise romantic dinner.
Expanding the ideaPhoto: Carlie Statsky @carliestatsky Sometimes Christine’s team will use the same design concept by filling and placing pots, baskets, vases and vessels with plants and flowers into the semi-circular shape. Photo: Carlie Statsky @carliestatsky “People love this design,” says Christine. “We have redesigned this over a dozen times. It’s a perfect solution for beautiful settings that need an altar. What other flowers besides pampas grass do they recommend for these designs? Hybrid delphinium, foxglove and snapdragons top the list. See more photos on her Instagram profile @christinemcater.
From ballet to bouquetsChristine has been in the event and wedding industry for 35 years. “I love all the details. I like making something look effortlessly beautiful, like ballet.” Hard work and intricate detail come naturally to Christine, who was a ballerina before a becoming a floral designer. “Ballet is hard, but it looks breathless like a snowflake,” she says. “I love the idea of making designs look brilliant and gorgeous - not heavy and contrived.” Christine’s event studio focuses on weddings and special events. She occasionally opens a pop-up flower shop during holidays such as Thanksgiving, Christmas and Valentine’s Day. “I also enjoy offering design workshops that teach techniques for wreathmaking, floral crowns, bouquets, etc.” she says.
The challenge to be differentPhoto: Kurt Boomer @kurtboomerphoto “Our biggest challenge is changing it up,” shares Christine. “We get bored easily.” “I want to start trends,” says Christine Cater. “When I see the same photos over and over I get tired of it” The team discovered their hardest task was to make the same design look different each time. “We are asked to recreate the circle ceremony design, over and over, but each venue is different,” she continues. “We like to marry design and function to make sense in a space, so we make each one different.”
“What ever happened to pretty?”Photo: Carlie Statsky @carliestatsky Beloved international floral designer Gary Brewer AIFD, PFCI often presented a floral program called “What ever happened to pretty?” Christine agrees. She’s ready for pretty to come back. As a business owner, she has woven her floral philosophy of pretty into her mission statement.
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Christine, where do you find your pampas grass vendors? We are in So Cal and have difficulty find a reliable source for quality pampas.
Christine suggests that you can search for bleached pampas grass on Amazon. Designers in the So Cal area, can you suggest other floral suppliers as well?