How do you get your floral designs from Flourtown to the national spotlight in Philadelphia? One way is to innovate an intriguing style, refine it over time and then have the right people see it at the right time. When this happens, suddenly you’re creating two dozen theme-coordinated centerpieces for the Lifetime Members banquet at the 2018 National Garden Club Convention in Philadelphia. Which is what happened this May for garden club member Audrey Williams of Flourtown, Pennsylvania (population 4,669). Using the unlikely mix of silver flashing, gold flat wire, tall pedestal mechanics, salal leaves and fresh phalaenopsis orchid blooms, her elegant industrial wire-based centerpieces were show-stoppers at the dinner. If you love an edgy industrial look with a touch of elegance, her design offers an innovative solution. Here’s how she, her husband and her garden club support team produced and delivered for the big event.
Creating the vertical formAudrey started by making a paper pattern of this version of her design to determine the lengths of wire, placement of drilled holes and necessary materials. To create the central axis of each vertical design, she glued a 21-inch Lomey pedestal to the base of an overturned six-inch Lomey dish. (These forms need to be glued at least 24 hours in advance.) Audrey’s husband Jim cut the four-foot lengths of 10-inch wide aluminum flashing into two five-inch wide strips and rounded the ends to lessen the sharpness of the edges. “We had to wear garden gloves to protect our hands when working with the sharp edges of the flashing,” says Audrey. Jim drilled five holes in each strip, the first two holes six inches from each end, then three more spaced equally across the strip. One-inch gold flat wire was added to the design in a swirl moving opposite the undulating silver flashing. It was held in place at the top by crimping the flat wire onto the Lomey pedestal and fastening it with tape. The wire was attached at the bottom by simply bending it around the rod. To create the horizontal designs for the event’s head tables, Audrey used a 31-inch horizontal Lomey pedestal and six feet of five-inch silver flashing accented by one-inch gold flat wire. She followed the same design steps minus the Lomey dish base.
An inspired designWhere did Audrey’s inspiration come from? After retiring from nursing, Audrey joined the Outdoor Gardeners Club in nearby Chestnut Hill. Her original inspiration came from “a waterfall design I created for a Longwood Gardens flower show with a watery theme.” She used japonica for her blooms and no flat wire. For her later designs, she switched to orchids. “The orchids were larger and more eye-catching and the flat wire really made a big difference.” One year, she created a 10-inch wide version of her design as an entry for a club sponsored Aurora Borealis flower show using hot-pink phalaenopsis orchids and one-inch strong pink flat wire. She was awarded the NGC Award of Design Excellence for the show. The judges liked the design and asked Audrey to duplicate the structures as centerpieces for the 2018 National Garden Club black and gold banquet with table décor in those colors. Attendees were asked to dress in black and gold, as well. Audrey adapted her design by narrowing the width of the silver flashing to five inches and using one-inch gold flat wire instead of pink.
Friends working together“This was definitely a communal effort,” says Audrey. In addition to the help of her husband, her garden club friends worked to help assemble the wire forms on her dining room table. The group needed 20 vertical designs for guest tables but constructed 24 just to be sure they had enough, along with three horizontal designs for the head table. In the end, they were still short one vertical design as the attendee number increased at the last minute, a common problem for events. “I hope no one was mad,” says Audrey. Audrey and a friend loaded the structures into five big boxes and transported them in her van to the convention ‘Love Blooms in Philadelphia’ thinking most of the work was done. The four friends spent hours attaching fresh phalaenopsis orchid blooms and salal leaves onto the structures using UGLU dashes. “It took much longer than we thought it would,” says Audrey. It always does! The orchid blooms were cut from 40 live orchids plants. “We hated to throw the nice plants away,” says Audrey. The deflowered orchids were placed in a cart in the convention hallway and sold to members for $1. “We felt good that we sold all of them and they went to good homes.” “It was certainly a labor of love and creativity for a lot of people. It wasn’t just me,” says Audrey. “I am so enjoying this garden club and we just thrive on working together.” What innovative designs does Audrey’s elegant industrial look inspire you to create?
This design is absolutely breathtaking. I was wondering — what is the water source for the orchids…or is one needed for the amount of time the design was on display?
Phyllis December 18, 2019
Because this is an event design, the flowers are not in a water source. It would be a good idea to float the orchids on water before designing with them. Then, spray the blooms with Crowning Glory before placing them on paper towels to dry before adding the adhesive.
Sharon McGukin December 18, 2019
WOW!!! Love these for any occasion! Can easily adapt for any season!
Deryl McGuire December 18, 2019