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.)