Monday, June 20, 2011

World Flower Show 2011

On my way to the World Flower Show in Boston this weekend, I needed only to follow the stream of excited ladies in floral print clothing to locate it at the World Trade Center. Though the show has been operating every three years since 1972, this is the first time for it to be held on American soil. As I wove my way in the door and through the exhibits, there were a few profound thoughts that dawned on me, which I'll share with you now. . . The first thought hit me hard, and it was this: everything I thought I knew about arranging flowers should be snipped away and thrown in the waste bin.

Delegates from over 30 countries took part in exhibiting unusual displays of flowers. The first arrangement I laid eyes on was this stunning mountain of warm-hued roses, lilies and snapdragons. Despite the beauty, it didn't take me long to realize that this was possibly the most traditional arrangement on the show floor (besides the gargantuan table centerpieces).

Most arrangements featured a few select plant species, some floral and some  more structural like dried leaves, wood, etc. Arrangements with similar themes used the same materials.

I found this one in the "Fire" themed section. I'm proud to say it was put together by a former Ikebana teacher of mine. I can always spot her work at the big flower shows.

Scrupulous attention was paid to texture in each display. Some florists chose to paint foliage to highlight texture even more. I don't know how I feel about that. I saw good, bad and ugly examples of painted foliage. I liken it to the same predisposition some florists have for applying sparkles. You either have some restraint, or you sparkle like the lights went out. This painted foliage was pulled off pretty well. It was a popular material in the "Storm" themed section.

(Another profound thought that hit me when I was trying to photograph the virtual cyclones and tsunamis in the "Storm" section was that it wasn't very easy to photograph large cyclones and tsunamis when surrounded by eager crowds and exhibition lights.)

Texture took on a new level in the miniature floral displays. I tried to imagine how much painstaking labor went in to this thumb-sized arrangement.

This one must not have been light on labor either.

I saw foliage being woven, wrapped, dangled, draped and sewn, but one technique I'm not too fussy about is contorting the leaves in an unnatural, awkward kind of way. Or chopping the tips off these particular leaves. In abstract art, it is an understatement to say that square forms are important but- when incorporating natural elements, where do you draw the line?

Here similar leaves are used to a much less awkward effect. This arrangement was in the "Sunrise" themed section. The picture that follows after it is of the "Stone" themed section. The main theme of this year's show was "This Glorious Earth". As I discovered more of the sub-themes, I finally understood what they meant by that.

There were a few sections of monochromatic displays. With hot lights, heady fragrance and crowds all around, I found it quite refreshing taking in the pure blue section, and more or less tranquil looking at the green.

Part of the exhibition featured two-dimensional displays. These incorporated plant parts large and small into collages on canvass.

 Many displays aimed to trick the eye by using plants to represent familiar objects. This included everything from food to garments, jewelry, animals and people. They were fun to look at, and definitely some of my favorite works at the show.

Some of them featured natural fibers like wool.

And others featured not so natural fibers quite successfully.

Even objects like old light bulbs, cassette tapes and computer keyboards were not exempt. Bright ideas.

I was curious to look at the "Writing" themed section. I'm still convinced, however, that a picture is worth a thousand words!

 In all of the things I realized while observing these world-class displays, I think the most important one was how much I do not know about the world of floral art! But even amongst these most innovative displays, on my way out of the show, I still found that the traditional mountain-like arrangement of roses, snapdragons and lilies had some kind of hold on me. Always will.


  1. Hi Kate
    Great coverage of this show!
    I'm still featuring 'Chelsea' one month after returning home from London - so much to share.
    p.s. Have belatedly welcomed you to the Blotanical blogosphere. Will follow you there ;-]
    aka Alice' s Garden Travel Buzz / Bay Area Tendrils

  2. Thanks Olli and Alice! A big part of attending the show for me was piecing together everything I saw afterward with these photographs.


If there's one thing better than visiting gardens, it's talking about them. . .thanks for joining the conversation!