Five Fabulous Flower-Filled Days at the San Francisco Flower & Garden Show
March 30th, 2014
The brand new and re-imagined San Francisco Flower & Garden Show took place March 19th-23rd at the San Mateo Event Center just south of the city. I had the huge privilege of serving as the show’s “Senior Floral Advisor,” which allowed me to invite all my favorite floral designers to come to the FLORAL STAGE and share their creativity, talent and inspiration.
I’ve only been home for one week and already I’m fantasizing about how to make this show even more exciting next year! I want to thank everyone who participated – all of the amazing professional floral designers and educators – and also share a few highlights.
Here is a summary of the comments we received throughout the five days of the show:
“Thank you for bringing FLOWERS back to the San Francisco Flower & Garden Show”
“This is the best place to learn from the top designers in our area!”
“It’s fabulous to hear from four designers for the price of one day’s ticket. I had to pay so much more just to attend one workshop elsewhere.”
“Please do this again next year!”
So here’s a recap and a huge thank you to my amazing speakers. These women and men agreed to share their knowledge and passion for floral design at a greatly reduced speaker’s fee, and for that I am hugely grateful. They are together helping to revitalize a floral design industry that’s in need of new ideas, added value, innovation and a commitment to using seasonal and locally-grown flowers.
MONDAY started off with Christina Stembel, owner of Farmgirl Flowers, and her studio manager Rhiannon Smith, whose presentation: “Farmgirl Flower School: Simple. Local. Beautiful,” set the tone for the week’s spirit and intent. Christina shared her philosophy of using California Grown Flowers to create her signature hand-tied bouquets.
Christina was followed by the amazingly talented Max Gill of Max Gill Design. If you haven’t read about Max (we profiled him in The 50 Mile Bouquet), you need to visit his web site to check out his work. Max gave us the secrets of how he conjures up foraged magic at Chez Panisse every week.
Next to the stage: Natasha Lisitsa of Waterlily Pond Floral Design. Natasha is a renowned floral installation artist whose aerial floral installation was the signature design element at the San Francisco Flower & Garden Show. Natasha shared her secrets for designing and constructing large-scale floral sculptures. She dreams and designs in larger-than-life format, and it’s thoroughly inspiring to watch her at work.
Above: More of Natasha’s work – from her demonstrations
Jill Rizzo and Alethea Harampolis, owners of Studio Choo, a hot SF floral design studio, wrapped up Day One with a great presentation. They featured design ideas from their bestselling book, The Flower Recipe Book, and demonstrated foam-free techniques for two different arrangements – a large floral display and a low table centerpiece. After their talk, audiences had a chance to meet Jill and Alethea for a booksigning. It was great to see them at work and people really enjoyed meeting these floral celebrities.
On TUESDAY, we devoted the entire day to “Meet the Flower Farmer,” a four-part lecture series with J Schwanke of Ubloom.com. J is the foremost expert on California’s cut flower farmers and their beautiful floral products. He has produced a wonderful online video series called “The California Grown Experience,” which you can watch here.
J introduced audiences to four flower farms representing four different growing regions in California – and demonstrated floral design techniques using flowers from each farm. A special thanks to The Sun Valley Group, Kitayama Brothers Farms, Euphloria Roses and Resendez Brothers for providing their beautiful flowers for this day’s presentations. Many of their flowers – and those grown by other American flower farms – are featured in J’s new book, “Fun With Flowers,” which he signed for audiences following his talks.
We kicked off FRIDAY with a focus on Succulents, one of the hottest trends in floral design. Debra Lee Baldwin, author of three books on succulents, including her newest, Succulents Simplified, treated audiences to a brand new project, seen for the first time at the San Francisco Flower & Garden Show. She planted a color-wheel-inspired bowl. The design reveals the amazing palettes of the succulent world.
Next up: Susie Nadler, the floral designer and head of The Cutting Garden at Floral Grubb Gardens. Susie’s wedding design work is so beautiful and her designs have greatly influence the bridal industry to embrace succulents and tillandsias in their designs. I can’t get enough of her beautiful work – which you can also read about in The 50 Mile Bouquet. Susie demystified the art of wiring succulents and creating “stems” for their inclusion in bouquets, centerpieces and boutonnieres.
Baylor Chapman of San Francisco’s Lila B. Design, another awesome floral and living plant artist and good friend, came to debut her brand new book, The Plant Recipe Book. Baylor debuted two projects featured in her book, showing audience members how to design with tillandsias and with mosses. How she managed to teach six design projects in 45 minutes is beyond me, but Baylor pulled it off and gave people lots of creative new ideas they can try at home. I was thrilled that she shared her insights and that the San Francisco Flower & Garden Show was the very first venue for people to see and purchase The Plant Recipe Book, too!
Nell Foster of Joy Us Garden, a popular how-to design, crafting and gardening blog, brought dozens of ideas to share using succulents and cut flowers. Her enthusiasm for the DIY potential of succulents was contagious!
Many new speakers arrived to fill our weekend stage, including Francoise Weeks. Portland-based, Francoise has an international following in the floral design world. She is noted for her two distinct styles, Botanical Couture and Urban Woodlands, both of which were the subject of intensive workshops offered separately at the Flower Show. The general Floral Stage audiences were also introduced to Francoise’s work with beautiful and inspiring presentations.
On SUNDAY, Maryann Nardo of 7 Petals Floral Design, demystified what to do with a simple supermarket bouquet, using foraged and garden-sourced flowers, weeds and foliage. Her final arrangement is gorgeous!
Stefani Bittner of Star Apple Edible + Fine Gardening, an East Bay landscape design business that she owns with Leslie Bennett, came to share a whimsical approach. Her talk: The Edible Bouquet, focused on how to choose beautiful herbs, vegetables, salad greens, flowers and fruit that are both edible and useful in the vase. By passing around small bouquets of aromatic flowers and herbs, Stefani convinced everyone in the audience to re-think their idea of a floral bouquet!~ Such fun! People had a chance to purchase and have Stefani sign the book she and Leslie co-authored last year: The Beautiful Edible Garden.
FINALLY, the five-day series ended with a fabulous presentation by Pilar Zuniga, owner of Gorgeous & Green Events in Berkeley. Pilar’s message really resonated with me and with audiences. You can make a beautiful floral display without using the toxic green florist foam that so many conventional flower shops and wire services rely on. Pilar disclosed many of her design secrets developed over the years to reflect her personally-compelling and sustainably-minded business philosophy.
That’s it for 2014. I am not sure what the 2015 show will include, but please share your feedback and suggestions with me – and I’ll be sure to pass them along to the NEW show owners, Mary Anne Lucas and Sherry Larson. A huge bouquet of thanks goes to them, too. This show was a huge undertaking and they pulled it off!! It was a treat to be part of the journey!