Debra Prinzing

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Episode 403: The Inspirational Royal Florist Shane Connolly and Our State Focus: Maryland

May 29th, 2019

My guest is Shane Connolly, plantsman, sustainable designer, author, educator, environmental advocate

Last week, I enjoyed a five-day whirlwind trip to London; my itinerary was filled with all things flowers and gardens. It was an incredible trip, made all the more enjoyable thanks to unseasonably beautiful and dry London weather that made everything sparkle.

The people behind the Facebook Garden (which won a Gold Medal at RHS Chelsea Flower Show) asked me to share my favorite gardening tip at “The Message Tree”

I’ll be covering the RHS Chelsea Flower Show with a Best of Chelsea report for Florists’ Review’s August issue – out later this summer. In the meantime, I have a very special episode to share with you today.

My guest is Shane Connolly of  Shane Connolly & Co., whose web site carries this royal warrant of appointment: “By Appointment to HRH The Prince of Wales, Supplier of Flowers for Events.”

If you track royal weddings at all, you will know that Mr. Connolly designed the florals for the marriage ceremony of Will and Kate, that is Their Royal Highnesses, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

In 2005, he was honored and delighted to be asked by HRH The Duchess of Cornwall to design her bouquet and all the other flowers for her marriage to HRH Prince of Wales and the service of dedication in Windsor Castle. In recognition of this, Shane was awarded a Royal Warrant of Appointment to HRH The Prince of Wales in 2006.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s wedding, trees courtesy of Connolly (c) Financial Times

In 2011 Shane was appointed Artistic Director for the wedding of TRH’s The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, and was awarded a second Royal Warrant of Appointment, to HM The Queen in 2015. HRH The Prince of Wales has long been a campaigner for the environment and has recognized the dangers of intensive farming, imported and GM food very publicly. Both he and his eldest son, HRH The Duke of Cambridge, are crusaders for environmental wellness, which provided Shane the tremendous distinction to design the florals for both of their marriage ceremonies in a naturally stunning, eco-conscious manner.

Shane and I posed for a portrait at his studio (left); just-arrived, gorgeous stems from Usk Roses in Wales, held by Lily Matilda, a freelancer for Shane Connolly & Co.

There is something very flattering when you arrange to meet someone for tea and he shows up holding a copy of your book, The 50 Mile Bouquet, asking you to autograph it. There is something entirely surreal when that person is Shane Connolly. What a lovely surprise.

It turns out that Shane acquired The 50 Mile Bouquet several years ago when he was teaching at Flower School New York, where they keep a small selection of books in the school shop. I think that’s perhaps how Shane learned of my passion for local and seasonal flowers — and we became Instagram aquaintances.

A fanciful Shane Connolly headpiece, truly seasonal and inspired!

I sent him a message several months ago, asking if he would be willing to record an interview for the Slow Flowers Podcast while I was in London. What a thrilling treat that Shane said “yes.”

As it turns out, in order to have a quiet space for the recording, we walked from his North Kensington studio just a few blocks away to Shane’s home that he and his wife Candy have recently established in the neighborhood. Pinch me – I was seated on the linen sofa, surrounded by antiques, textiles, books, art, and flowers – interviewing this warm, kind, funny and intelligent floral artist.

A botanical table design by Shane Connolly + Co. (c) Thomas Alexander Photography

Shane is a true pioneer and he is a vocal leader in sustainable floral design in all of its facets — a kindred Slow Flowers spirit who asks about the origin of the flowers he sources and is working to change the floral industry’s conventional, less-than-sustainable practices by example.

An exquisite detail from the table shown above. (c) Thomas Alexander Photography

Here’s more about Shane Connolly:

Shane Connolly & Co. has been creating timeless, artisan, floral arrangements and decorations for over twenty-five years, and still gets excited about the next event. Shane Connolly set up his eponymous company in 1989 after training with some of London’s leading flower designers.

Summer (left) and Autumn (right), interpreted and expressed by Shane Connolly + Co.

Born and raised in Northern Ireland, Shane read Psychology at university but a lifelong passion for plants and gardening eventually led to a complete career change. Subsequently, he has built an enviable reputation as a floral designer with a small, dedicated and talented team of florists, artists and craftsmen working from offices and a large light-filled studio in North Kensington. He is the author of four books — Table Flowers, Wedding Flowers, The Language of Flowers and A Year in Flowers.

Find and follow Shane Connolly on Instagram

Read a Financial Times interview with Shane Connolly

Other items we discussed:


These pressed flowers were collected by George Marr whilst serving as a soldier in Salonika, Greece, during the First World War. On his death his daughter, Georgeann Slater, found the notebook he had kept during his service in Greece.

The Garden Museum in London, where the piece shown above is on display. This is the specimen Shane mentioned using in his recent comments in the FlowerSchool NY panel on Beauty & Ethics: The Art of Sustainability.

British Flowers Week including British Flowers Week events at the Garden Museum.

An allee of stems decorate the table at the V & A Directors Dinner, designed by Shane Connolly + Co.

There’s not much more to say other than — wow — what an incredible human and what an incredible experience to spend time with him! It was an honor to share this conversation with you.


A stunning perspective from the end of the table at the V & A Directors Dinner, designed by Shane Connolly + Co.

I will leave you with my favorite quote from today’s episode, Shane quoting Spain’s most famous architect is Antoni Gaudi:

“If you want to be original, you need to get back to the origin.”

Shane continues and asks: What is the origin of flowers? What is essential? Why do we bring flowers inside? It’s because we want to see nature. Where do they come from: a garden, a field, from nature? if you detach from that, you might as well use fluffy cushions!

He reminds us to not forget the fundamental reason for having flowers. What a beautiful lesson to learn and re-learn.

Ona Rose Pappas of Ona Rose Floral Design in Maryland

And now, let’s visit the state of Maryland and meet Ona Rose Pappas of Ona Rose Floral Design – she’s part of our Fifty States of Slow Flowers series, which continues today.

Ona Rose Floral is a boutique floral design studio based in Bethesda, Maryland on the outskirts of Washington, D.C., specializing in one of a kind arrangements and floral designs which are solely sourced from flowers from Ona Pappas’s personal gardens, and from local flower farms and growers across America. 

A Maryland-grown bouquet by Ona Rose Floral Design

One of Ona’s studio values is to provide an extremely personal approach often unseen in the event industry today. In addition to event design, we also offer seasonal a la carte wedding florals, daily arrangements for your home and celebratory occasions, as well as private workshops.

Ona Rose Floral Designs for local weddings

Ona sources her seeds from a variety of the top American seed companies and farmers including Floret Flower Farm, Baker Creek, Botanical Interest, Johnny’s, Seed Savers, Southern Exposure, among others. She only uses organic seeds, fertilizers, soil, etc to ensure that the flowers being utilized for her special event clients are free of any chemicals. And I’m especially grateful to read a section about the Slow Flowers movement on Ona’s “FAQ” page — that’s a smart way to share her values and brand affiliation!

THANK YOU TO OUR SPONSORS!

Florists’ Review magazine. I’m delighted to serve as Contributing Editor for Slow Flowers Journal, found in the pages of Florists’ Review. It’s the leading trade magazine in the floral industry and the only independent periodical for the retail, wholesale and supplier market. Take advantage of the special subscription offer for members of the Slow Flowers Community.

Longfield Gardens provides home gardeners with high quality flower bulbs and perennials. Their online store offers plants for every region and every season, from tulips and daffodils to dahlias, caladiums and amaryllis. Visit them at longfield-gardens.com 

Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers. Formed in 1988, ASCFG was created to educate, unite, and support commercial cut flower growers. It mission is to help growers produce high-quality floral material, and to foster and promote the local availability of that product. Learn more at ascfg.org.

Arctic Alaska Peonies, a cooperative of family farms in the heart of Alaska working together to grow and distribute fresh, stunning, high-quality peony varieties during the months of July and August. Arctic Alaska Peonies operates three pack houses supplying peonies throughout the United States and Canada. Visit them today at arcticalaskapeonies.com

Spring in bloom at the Slow Flowers Cutting Garden (c) Missy Palacol Photography

I am so excited about the upcoming SLOW FLOWERS SUMMIT and I hope you can join ME and our vibrant and engaging lineup of presenters on July 1st and 2nd in St. Paul, Minnesota. One of the top reasons our attendees love the Slow Flowers Summit is the opportunity to mix-and-mingle with other kindred spirits. So we want to make it easy for you to experience the Summit and bring along your BFF, partner, colleague or team member with our Plus-One Ticket Promotion! Please grab your tickets before we sell out! This is the very last week to take advantage of our special PLUS ONE Ticket Promotion, which expires on May 31st, so take advantage of this generous offer.

Take advantage of our Plus-One Ticket Promotion for the Slow Flowers Summit!

That’s right, when you register for the Slow Flowers Summit, you can add a guest for $275! This applies to anyone who has already registered, as well as new ticket-buyers. You can find the Plus One promo option by following the Register link at slowflowerssummit.com. And don’t procrastinate because you only have a few days left to grab that plus-one ticket.

The Slow Flowers Podcast has been downloaded more than 470,000 times by listeners like you. Thank you for listening, commenting and sharing – it means so much.

I’m Debra Prinzing, host and producer of the Slow Flowers Podcast. Next week, you’re invited to join me in putting more American grown flowers on the table, one vase at a time. And If you like what you hear, please consider logging onto iTunes and posting a listener review.

The content and opinions expressed here are either mine alone or those of my guests alone, independent of any podcast sponsor or other person, company or organization.

The Slow Flowers Podcast is engineered and edited by Andrew Brenlan. Learn more about his work at soundbodymovement.com

Music Credits:
Castor Wheel Pivot; One Little Triumph; Betty Dear; Gaena; Perspiration by Blue Dot Sessions
http://www.sessions.bluehttps://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/

Lovely by Tryad http://tryad.bandcamp.com/album/instrumentals
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/

In The Field
Music from:
audionautix.com

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