. . . a visit to Denver Botanic Gardens – and more!

Just recently we spent four days in the Denver-Boulder-Longmont-Loveland area of Colorado, guests of the Denver Botanic Gardens and The Fresh Herb Co., a sustainable cut flower farm. It was a trip that yielded new horticultural friendships, new ideas and endless inspiration. Our openness to the wisdom and lessons shared by others has rewarded us greatly.

The main purpose of our visit was to speak and teach at the Denver Botanic Gardens as part of the 2011 Bonfils-Stanton lecture series. Created by Celia Adamec, DBG’s former manager for adult programming, this year’s theme is “Talk to Me: The Connected Garden.” Celia developed the public series after observing that people of all ages are increasingly turning to the Internet for opinions and ideas. She wrote: this is ”a celebration of the thriving online communities . . . and the diverse array of bloggers who write about topics ranging from urban gardening to ethnic cooking to sustainable flower farming.”

We were honored to be part of this inspired program. Debra spoke about design ideas from her book Stylish Sheds and Elegant Hideaways on Wednesday evening; David taught a sold-out photography workshop on Friday. And on Thursday night, the two of us teamed up to present an illustrated lecture and floral design demonstration called “A Year in Flowers: Seasonal, Local and Sustainable Floral Ingredients.”

One of the most delightful surprises of our trip was meeting local Denver floral artist Arthur Williams. Owner of Babylon Floral Design, Arthur is a good friend to and supporter of the DBG. The garden commissioned him to design an arrangement for our lecture, and also for several previous presentations in the series (we heard his “wicked plants” bouquet for Amy Stewart’s lecture last month was amazing – maybe she’ll send us photos of that arrangement!).

Arthur agreed to let us document his design process at his studio.  When we walked into his shop and David immediately went wild for the “vase” – a hollowed-out piece of gnarly tree trunk. Having fabricated his own branch-vase for one of our lecture/demos earlier this year, David appreciated where Arthur was going with his creation.

The naturalistic arrangement of flowers and foliage was ideally suited for the container. Arthur slid a cylindrical glass vase into the salvaged wood vessel and began building the bouquet. First: a series of large green, ruffled leaves and fleshy flowering stems from an ornamental rhubarb that grew in his own backyard. The three of us spent some time trying to decide whether one can actually eat ornamental rhubarb, but David suggested that since it was the day of our lecture it may not have been a good idea to experiment. Smart point.

Next, Arthur added locally-grown snowball Viburnum – stems, leaves and puffy white flowers included — contributing a soft counterpoint to the jumbo foliage. Then he added several iris stalks from his own garden, as well as locally-grown lilies for a punch of yellow. The design looked both effortless and sophisticated, and we really appreciated the interest he added and the care he took to source Denver-grown ingredients.

Arthur grew up on a farm on the western slope (the part of Colorado that’s west of the Rockies). His background is gardening, sculpture and photography and he is famous in Denver art circles for collaborating with local hair stylists and models to create fantastical floral headdresses. Some of these beautiful designs appear in the photos seen behind him in David’s portrait of Arthur and the bouquets (above). A big thank you to Arthur, both for the beautiful, one-of-a-kind arrangement and for helping Debra procure locally-grown flowers for her own demonstration!

Last Thursday’s joint lecture gave us a chance, once again to share our storytelling, photography and video interviews of flower farmers and floral designers. We are continually encouraged by audiences who say, “Oh, when will this book be published?” These folks are kindred spirits – the ones who understand that there is a meaningful connection enjoyed when we bring locally, sustainably-grown and seasonal flowers into our  homes and events, rather than tolerating flowers that are imported, drenched in chemicals, and strangely out-of-season.

A huge bouquet of thanks to Leesly Leon, Sarah Olson and Matthew Cole, the DBG’s fun and very gifted educational team, who together made our visit so special. And a shout-out to Milan Doshi, innkeeper and chef, and his colleague Sara Sayed, of The Queen Anne, an urban B&B where we felt right at home, thanks to modern hospitality in a 19th century Victorian environment.

Check back in a few days and we’ll share the rest of our Colorado story, including several of David’s farm-visit photos, in the second installment of this tale.

The very iconic, Arthur Williams, owner, BABYLON Floral Design

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Mike Norman May 30, 2011 at 3:51 pm

That is different!

compostinmyshoe May 31, 2011 at 3:49 pm

Super blog post. I’ve met Arthur at several floral events. he is hugely talented. How lucky for all of you to work together. Sounds like the lectures were a fantastic success.

Saxon holt June 1, 2011 at 9:37 am

Great post ! And why ISN’T that book published

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