Glimpses from the 2017 Ninth Moon Floral Design Showcase at Lan Su

I have my sweet friend William to thank for the privilege of attending the opening night of this floral extravaganza. It’s an annually occurring event centering on the Chrysanthemum – the flower of the ninth lunar month – and taps into the talents of local floral designers who are invited to add their pizzazz and floral exuberance to the celebrations. The Chrysanthemum is celebrated as it signifies the arrival of autumn. The flower itself possesses health-giving, medicinal properties, and is thought to impart longevity to our lives. As such, it is a popular gift flower for the older set, and is often also enjoyed as a tea.

Lights, flowers, music, and glorious desserts made opening night a veritable party!

I showed up woefully unprepared to this visually spectacular event. Toting a dead camera without an extra battery pack, and a phone that was at less than 20%, . What can I say? Words can not properly describe how much I piss myself off sometimes. Just shrug, and do better next time, I suppose. I managed to use up those last 20% up snapping at least a few photos, but it was nowhere near how many I actually wanted to take. So, for your viewing pleasure, and to make up for my very own idiocy, I returned two days later (recharged camera in hand) to document my favorite displays for posterity. On that sunny afternoon, of course, the light differed dramatically from the magical illumination of opening night. Some arrangements were super tricky to photograph at all, but I did my best avoiding the worst of the solar glare.

The Lucky Dragon was the Jury’s Choice winner. I can see its appeal. The designers (Carlie Beck & Dylan Christiansen) told me they spent 80 hours putting it together. I believe it. It was excruciatingly studied, and technically difficult. This was a display of willful bending of plants’ and flowers’ natural forms transforming them into something completely different. Its makers were masters of pins, spray paint, and glue guns. The complexity of it all made me recall the highly contrived and complex Rikka arrangements I wrote about this summer. It was definitely impressive, but it wasn’t my favorite.

Here is an attempt at showing the whole dragon. The light wasn’t doing me any favors, but hopefully you can see what I mean about it being difficult.

Plants were picked apart, spray painted and reassembled. I bet those red leaves came from a Grevillea ‘Ivanhoe’. There were also gold painted Foxtail ferns. Other than the moss and the green Chrysanthemums covering the base, I don’t think there was a single flower here that had been allowed to be its natural self.

The Jury’s Second runner up (the name of which, I have forgotten) was in stark contrast to the first – full of dynamic tension. If there was glue involved, it sure wasn’t showing. A large piece of worn wood, precariously balanced on a rock perched on blocks.

Behind the wood was a heavy bowl, in which sat a pillar, its front covered in Chrysanthemum.

Nestled in next to the rock, and underneath the wood, was a single Chrysanthemum flower. I liked this arrangement because it beautifully manifested that same exquisite sensibility that you often see in Japanese gardens, where all but one flower has been removed, in order to highlight the beauty of the one. This was a supremely elegant display, and one of my faves.

The third runner up was called Textures of the Moon. The hammered copper of the cymbal or gong, provided background to a simple, elegant composition involving driftwood, wool, mums, Spanish moss and Tillandsia. Obviously, I had some trouble getting this one to stick on film – the light was blinding!

Here, you can see a little bit better…

Okay – those were the jury choices. Everyone not on the jury, got a piece of paper and a pencil on which to scribble down their vote. Event volunteers and staff are probably tallying up the results as I write this – the closed the voting yesterday afternoon. Although I could very well understand the merits of each one, I didn’t vote for either of these. I’m going to post a few more photos of things I appreciated before I reveal my favorite.

This was probably the most bizarre of the displays. A mannequin covered in fluffy pompoms, flowers and butterflies. It was aptly named Cloud Walker. 

I loved seeing the different interpretations of the challenge. Some where complex, and highly detailed, whereas others were quite simple. Some where constructed with immaculate precision and control, others showed free, artistic abandon. Many were very tied to the idea and significance of ‘moon’, others had more liberated sensibilities. This little tray of tea offerings was probably one of the simplest. It made me smile.

Stringing up all these glass beads, and then contorting the wire to conform to the idea must have taken forever.

Here was a mandala like ‘moon’, with a light and a dark side. Funny – I have grown all of the plants in it – except for the Chrysanthemum – with varying success. Come to think of it, I really miss my Ornithogalum. They must have perished this last winter. They bloomed beautifully the first year, but I never saw them again. Sigh… Need to plant those again – I really like them!

This entire display was immensely controlled. My favorite part of it was the wires criss-crossing the green base.

Hard to tell from this photo, but the effect of the strung up Mums was lovely against the dark gray stone floor.

For some reason, I liked this one a lot. It was rather simple, but somehow effective, I thought.

See the recurring theme here? There were lots of circles…

There were Mums made of felted wool.

I thought this panel of felted wool netting was just beautiful!

Of course there were Mums on display outside in the gardens, too. Lots of them…

Seen like this, they are actually not too bad. A big difference from those sad little offerings at your neighborhood Freddie’s.

Is it just me, or why do we never see green Mums for sale with actual roots? I only ever see them as cut flowers…

Finally – THIS was my favorite! It was called ‘Reflections of a Bird Brain’. I found it clever, humorous, and incredibly well put together. The fact that it contained both ferns, grasses, and palm fronds probably didn’t impede its chances with me, either.

Its body was a colorful melange of feathery plants.

Here is a somewhat fuzzy close-up.


The scull was an actual bird scull, with starry, bicolored Mums for eyes.


Close-up shot of some of the plants and materials used in this design. I was intrigued to see luffa. Wonder what that blue fruit is…? It’s too purple to be Decaisnea – or Dead Man’s Fingers…

So much to admire!

Perched over a printed stream with rocks added for emphasis, this particular Bird Brain was scanning for prey with its head turned away from the people coming to see him. I loved that the artists (Lin Petrus & Theresa Macklin) added a mirror suspended from a branch, that reflected his face. Nice touch! After having cast my vote, this Bird Brain went home to charge her camera, so she could come back. (Glad I did.)


About annamadeit

I was born and raised in Sweden, By now, I have lived almost as long in the United States. The path I’ve taken has been long and varied, and has given me a philosophical approach to life. I may joke that I’m a sybarite, but the truth is, I find joy and luxury in life’s simple things as well. My outlook on life has roots in a culture rich in history and tradition, and I care a great deal about environmental stewardship. Aesthetically, while drawn to the visually clean, functional practicality and sustainable solutions that are the hallmarks of modern Scandinavia, I also have a deep appreciation for the raw, the weathered, and the worn - materials that tell a story. To me, contrast, counterpoint, and diversity are what makes life interesting and engaging. Color has always informed everything I do. I’m a functional tetrachromat, and a hopeless plantoholic. I was originally trained as an architect working mostly on interiors, but soon ventured outside - into garden design. It’s that contrast thing again… An interior adrift from its exterior, is like a yin without a yang. My firm conviction that everything is connected gets me in trouble time and time again. The world is a big place, and full of marvelous distractions, and offers plentiful opportunities for inquiry and exploration. I started writing to quell my constant queries, explore my discoveries, and nurture my curiosity. The Creative Flux was started in 2010, and became a catch-all for all kinds of intersecting interests. The start of Flutter & Hum at the end of 2013 marks my descent into plant nerd revelry. I occasionally contribute to other blogs, but those two are my main ones. For sure, topics are all over the map, but then again - so am I! Welcome to my blogs!
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22 Responses to Glimpses from the 2017 Ninth Moon Floral Design Showcase at Lan Su

  1. bergstromskan says:

    Anna, your reflections on the birdbrains kept me laughing for quite some time, thank you. And I hope you were laughing too, in spite of all the kicking of yourself that you probably did. Amazing creativity displayed in one place. Thank you for sharing

  2. This is the first year in quite awhile that I missed the show. Thanks for the photos! One question about your favorite…I don’t see the luffa in the overall photos, where were they worked in?

    • annamadeit says:

      They were part of the “marginal plants” around the stream – on the left corner of the “frame” when you face the same direction as the bird. Sorry you missed it! It was my first visit, and I really enjoyed it.

  3. Kris P says:

    Such craftsmanship and attention to detail! I’m impressed, although it’s not a form of floral design I can ever imagine having the patience to pursue. Your choice was among my favorites but I also liked the simpler displays like the one utilizing what I think must have been driftwood and the one that included Cymbidium orchids. The only potted Chrysanthemums sold here are ordinary squat plants forced into bloom. I’d love to try growing some of those with larger, more elaborate flowers.

    • annamadeit says:

      I liked the driftwood one a lot, too. Those squat little mums are what we have here, too. I don’t think I’ve ever seen those tall/ spiders/ green/ what-have-yous for sale anywhere. I would love to see the kind of bouquets you would make with those…..

  4. Hee… when I saw the first pic of that last one I just knew it would be your favorite; it was striking to me immediately. I bet that purple fruit is Akebia.

    • annamadeit says:

      It was cool, wasn’t it? Akebia, huh… good to know! All I could think of was Decaisnea, but neither form nor color was right. Thanks for solving the mystery!

  5. Tina says:

    So glad you went back with your camera! All of these arrangements are extrodinary, but your favorite is my favorite. I love the Lan Su garden and have visited it many times.

    • annamadeit says:

      Haha – of course you fell for the bird! I would expect nothing else… 😀 Some time you need to visit your son in early November, so you can visit this event for yourself – you’d love it!

  6. hb says:

    Lots of creativity. It’s fun to see that event again. I remember it from blogs last year.

    My favorite is the one that evokes clouds drifting in front of the moon, because I saw that very thing last night out my bathroom window–it’s a beautiful effect and how delightful to create it with a flower arrangement.

    Not a fan of painted flowers, reminds me of those spray-painted succulents Wal-Mart sells, yikes! The bird is very well done. Wonderful use of plants and textures.

  7. annamadeit says:

    I know… right? All I could think was of those inevitable stripped Ivanhoe Grevillea branches – even though it did look quite striking, I most definitely had mixed feelings. I liked the clouded moon, too. It was simple and very effective. How nice to see an actual moon like that… 🙂

  8. Pingback: Wednesday Vignette – changing directions | Flutter & Hum

  9. FlowerAlley says:

    First. Cut yourself some slack on the camera thing. It happens. Second. This exhibition was a DREAM. The moon and that crazy bird were my favorites, but all were inspiring. So much beauty and talent on display. Lucky you , again…

    • annamadeit says:

      In a sense it was good, because I spend more time hobnobbing with friends and acquaintances. By not looking through a lens, I saw more of everything else. I often get so obsessed with potentially beautiful captures that I forget to be present. Forgetting to charge my camera made me enjoy the party more. 🙂

  10. Peter/Outlaw says:

    Wow! some pretty impressive creations.

  11. brennie says:

    Wow. I love this post. Spectacular photos. Thank you

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