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Three Southern Cities, Part Two

Comte de Chambord rose

‘Twas the day of the Alabama/Florida football game (the SEC championship game) in Atlanta. I, hailing from Birmingham, Alabama, found myself in front of 300 people at the 2009 Art & Antiques Show in Jacksonville (I was pretty pumped that so many folks were still in town). I spoke on antique roses and roses in antiques, did a PowerPoint presentation, and then demonstrated a couple of arrangements using exquisite antique roses that had been sent to me gratis from my good buddy, Eleanor Clevenger, at Transflora in Miami.

When finished, I toured the show and was exhilarated and inspired by the caliber of antiques at the show—so much so, that I felt compelled to purchase an exquisite Majolica pitcher emblazoned with, of course, a flower.

Tuscany Superb rose

That afternoon, I toured the Cummer’s gem-like museum and gardens with a real pistol of a grand-dame, Bobby Arnold. On the heels of that aesthetic treat, I was given a tour of Preston Haskell’s phenomenal collection of Abstract Expressionist paintings, by the collector himself, and then experienced his beautifully considered and designed sculpture “garden.” After my afternoon of absorbing beauty, I begged off dinner, knowing that most of my potential hosts would be watching “the game” and most likely, I would be a tad uncomfortable in the “enemy camp.”

Veilchenblau rose

As it turned out, I went back to my suite, made a hand-tied arrangement of my leftover antique roses, had a long bubble bath, and watched Hallmark Christmas movies ‘til I fell asleep. Aahh, it’s a tough job, but somebody’s got to spread the flower word. I do hope the housekeeper enjoyed the bouquet.

Oh, and for anyone who doesn’t follow football, my team won.

For tips on how to care for your roses, download this tip sheet from Paul Zimmerman: Rose Tips
Photo credits for antique roses pictured:
Paul Zimmerman

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Three Southern Cities: Part 1

Richmond: A city steeped in history, beauty, flowers, and Southern hospitality—all of which I experienced firsthand on my first visit.

I flew up to Richmond a few weeks ago to speak to the Boxwood Garden Club about flower and was completely wowed by all I experienced there. My hostess met me at the airport and then, on the way to her home, I got to dart in and tour the gardens and outbuildings of Tuckahoe, Thomas Jefferson’s childhood home. What a treat! The quarter-mile allée of cedars led us to the white clapboard Colonial house, rambling stands of zinnias and celosia, a Charles Gillette rose garden, and numerous fairy-tale garden rooms. The house itself quietly gazed across a sweeping lawn to the James River. As we left, we met one of the current owner’s sons who had just moved home after Princeton to help with the “family farm.” (He was in the process of implementing organic vegetable gardening.)

From this lagniappe, we went on to a sumptuous dinner party where I ran into a fellow Hollins College alum and several other charming and gracious flower lovers. The next day, after my presentation for the Boxwood Garden Club at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, I had the distinct pleasure of lunching at Bloemendaal (Dutch for “valley of flowers”), the ancestral home of the late Grace Arents, niece of Lewis Ginter, the original owner of the land where the Garden now sits.

After lunch, Frank Robinson, the Executive Director and custodian of the vision of the Garden, led me through several of the 10 Signature gardens, among them, the Healing Garden, the Children’s Garden, and a rose garden comprised of all disease-resistant varieties, procured in order to adhere to the Garden’s chemical-free ethos. The magical conservatory, housing a vast orchid collection, and was full of preparations for the GardenFest of Lights in late November when the entire Garden would be lit up like a Christmas tree.

On our way out, we looped back through the Robins Visitor Center where Frank walked me through the cafe and shared the labyrinthine tale of acquiring the botanical prints of one Alexandre Descubes. The walls of the café are lined with these phenomenally detailed representations of flora from exotic locales—believed to have been drawn to illustrate William Hooker’s Journal of Botany—as compelling an attraction as the outdoor flora.

Mr. Robinson has been the director of Lewis Ginter for 17 of its 22 years, and to witness his tour of the gardens is to be in the presence of a proud yet humble parent. Robinson acknowledges the wonderful and invaluable help the gardens receive from top-notch staff, the Garden Club of Virginia as well as other garden clubs, and countless patrons, and the enthusiasm generated by all the programs and events that run throughout the seasons.

I want to live at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden.
But, I’d be content just to visit Richmond on a regular basis.

To enlarge the images of Margot’s visit to the Boxwood Garden Club, click on the thumbnails beow:

Stay tuned for my next trip…

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Old is New Again

I’m sitting here on Sunday afternoon waiting for my precious grandson to wake from his nap. I’ve been going through websites and, yes, even some Facebook postings of weddings and I’m here to tell you, there’s some great work going on out there. But it is time for something new.

Or maybe something old, that’s new again:

Sybil basket

Designed by Sybil Sylvester

There are so many amazing floral designers and event planners around, it defies the imagination. But, after viewing hundreds of weddings and events each season, I have to say, I would welcome some big ol’ classic English mixed arrangements. Now, I like monochrome and/or monobloom as much as the next person, and I think glass with rocks, floating candles, French hand-tied bouquets, or just mounds, are stunningly chic when done well. But let’s not lose sight of the beauty and drama of a large Sheila MacQueen-type creation of mixed blossoms, sizes, textures, placement, and greenery, that leaves room for “butterflies and bees to fly through.” This particular design was de rigeur for centuries and there’s a reason. Heck, we even put one on our fall cover. I’m not advocating we do away with new, modern, more architectural style, I just think we need to nod to our floral/design heritage now and then.

Try it and let me know what you think!
Your flower fanatic,

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Here, There, and Everywhere…

Though we’re based in Birmingham, Alabama, I travel frequently to spread the word about flower magazine. After all, flowers are everywhere, and now, our distribution is catching up.

Meanwhile, my travels in the last year and a half have ranged from London for the Chelsea Flower Show and Newport, Rhode Island, for their Flower Show to the Richard Avery Conference Center at the Fish Farming Center in Greensboro, Alabama, where I spoke to a lovely group of avid flowerers.

My other peregrinations in the past year have included a weekend in Charlotte, North Carolina (The Queen City) for the Southern Retail Florist Association Convention and a trip to the idyllic Mackinac Island in early September to speak at the Carleton Varney Antique and Design Fall Festival (If you’ve never been to this magical island, run don’t walk to and secure your place—preferably September 18 to 22 for Mr. Varney’s 20th Annual Antique and Design weekend).

A two-day jaunt to San Antonio where I stayed with a former college roommate included speaking to her Garden Club of America group, touring the splendid Botanical Garden, and ducking into a gem of a museum, The McNay, on my way to the airport.

During a whirlwind trip to New Orleans, native Angèle Parlange whisked me to some of the most fun and floral spots in town. Nashville entertained with its perennially excellent Antiques and Garden Show, and then it was on to Lynchburg, Virginia, to speak to two fabulous groups of garden clubbers, where all was abuzz in preparation for the Historic Garden Week.

Most recently, a sublime visit to Pensacola, Florida, found me speaking again to a wonderful assembly of flower lovers and meeting Shannon Pallin, a René van Rems-trained floral designer, who was responsible for starting a Pensacola Art in Bloom. It takes a village of volunteers to implement an event of this magnitude, but it also takes one person with a vision. BRAVO Shannon!

Who knows where flower travel will take me next?
Stay tuned…

Until then, flower to the people!

SDG (I am so blessed to have this job),

Margot Shaw

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