Debra Prinzing

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Botanical fantasy? Or Shoe Fetish?

March 9th, 2009

Shoes for a flower fairy with twigs, moss and petals

Shoes for a flower fairy with twigs, moss and petals

I spent a few days last week at the spectacular Philadelphia Flower Show. It was my second time traveling to this Grand Dame of indoor flower shows to give a garden talk. When I first presented there in 2006, I was blown away by the over-the-top displays and ambitious floral designs. This year’s theme, “Bella Italia,” inspired show designers to highlight Italian- and Mediterranean-themed gardens.

Debra (left) and Mary-Kate Mackey (right). We posed in front of a lavish rose-filled urn at the entrance to the Philadelphia Flower Show.

Debra (left) and Mary-Kate Mackey (right). We posed in front of a lavish rose-filled urn at the entrance to the Philadelphia Flower Show.

With my roommate, Mary-Kate Mackey, I managed to squeeze in lots of adventures in my 36 hours on Pennsylvania soil (I spent more time trying to fly there and back than I was actually on the ground, due to a doozy of an East Coast snow storm that stranded me in Dallas overnight and then marooned me for five hours in Milwaukee). Unfortunately, I missed seeing all of my fellow Garden Writer members because I was sitting in the Milwaukee Airport at the exact time the regional meeting took place. Oh well.

But – finally – when down to my last option of continuing eastward or returning home to LA, I grabbed a seat on the only flight to Philly that day. I arrived late last Monday and met up with Mary-Kate, who was in town to teach a one-day writing class for Garden Writers, and to see the show.

After my lecture on Tuesday afternoon, we strolled out to the show. With M-K as my tour guide (all-knowing, she had been there for several days, including hours spent behind-the-scenes during show set-up). We meandered through “Bella Italia” – kind of like taking a cross-country floral tour – all in a single day.

With gardens devoted to Italy’s major tourist regions, there was lots to admire. But the most surprising and artistic of them all celebrated Milan. Milan is the fashion capital of Italy. The American Institute of Floral Designers (AFID) created a floral fashion show of sorts. Spectacular stuff!

Foliage as soft as velvet creates the bodice of this nature-inspired creation

Foliage as soft as velvet creates the bodice of this nature-inspired creation

Against a stark white backdrop of mannequins and props, the designers displyaed imaginative shoes, handbags, hats, jewelry and garments . . . made out of petals, leaves, pods, buds, stems, needles and more. In every hue and texture of flower and foliage. Oh, so beautiful. M-K likened the technique of layering and gluing individual petals and plant parts (to create fields of color) to a small-scale version of Pasadena Rose Bowl Parade’s float production. It is a good explanation of the way these inventive designers rendered fashion “in bloom.”

Bows, buds and pods adorn this pair of stylish heels

Bows, buds and pods adorn this pair of stylish heels

More inspiring than the dresses, though, was the footwear. People were standing three- and four-bodies deep to gaze at and try to capture photographs of these dainty delicacies for the toes.

What is it about shoes? We asked each other this question as we, too, tried to get close and peer at the high heels, strappy sandals, little ballet flats, avant-garde boots, and more.

Are shoes magical, like Cinderella’s glass slippers? Or do they just seduce us with those sensual shapes? I know from experience that a gorgeous pair of shoes (comfortable ones would be nice, too) gives many women a feeling of power and confidence.

A whimsical pair of boots (made from chicken wire and moss), spotted in Holland in 2005

A whimsical pair of boots (made from chicken wire and moss), spotted in Holland in 2005

Shoes in the garden never fail to charm and delight. Think of those people who love to plant hen-and-chicks in old work boots.

A steel "spring" adorns the toe of this shoe-planter

A steel "spring" adorns the toe of this shoe-planter

I love my wacky garden shoes, also known as “Steel Heels.” I discovered them when I lectured at the Boise Flower Show in 2006.

Cut from steel and welded with fanciful heels and swirly toes, these artful shoes were made by Micki Shampang-Voorhies and her husband Gary Voorhies. I love that these perfect Size 8’s are weathered over time to reveal a rusty patina.

These shoes make me smile every time I see them in the garden.

The artists, whose Blue River, Oregon, studio is called Custom Copper & Iron, turn everyday scrap metal and rusted tools into fashionista-worthy shoes.

Castoff springs, drill bits, bolts and even a handle of a garden faucet create the heels of each artistic stiletto. Tuck a few sedums into the toe or heel and I’ve started my own shoe wardrobe in the garden:

"Steel Heels," planted with succulents

"Steel Heels," planted with succulents

 Enjoy this garden gallery of shoes and other fashions for your visual delight:

6 Responses to “Botanical fantasy? Or Shoe Fetish?”

  1. Lorene Says:

    Deb, you may have found the “missing link” that will allow my 20-something daughter and I to bond over re: gardening! – L

  2. Lorene Says:

    Deb, you may have found the “missing link” that will allow my 20-something daughter and I to bond over re: gardening! – L
    Oops, should have mentioned great post! Waiting for the next post!

  3. Debra Lee Baldwin Says:

    Shoes are the ultimate fashion accessory and also are containers…how perfect that shoe shapes are stuffed with moss and used to showcase plants!

  4. Bonnie Manion Says:

    Debra, what a fabulous post on the Philadelphia Flower Show. Too fun!

    Bonnie Manion’s last blog post..Dazzling “Razzleberry” Shrub

  5. Living in the Garden Says:

    Oh, thank you for the inspirational photos….

    It is so sad that the Philadelphia show is the last one in our country.
    thanks for “bringing it home” for us all.

  6. Shirley Bovshow "EdenMaker" Says:

    Debra,
    That is some shoe collection! Great photos. See you in SF
    Shirley

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