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Seasonal Welcome for the Slow Flowers Summit

A signature floral installation graces the Bellevue Botanical Garden's entrance

Photography by Missy Palacol and Debra Prinzing

There were lots of site visits that brought us to the Bellevue Botanical Garden as we planned for the 6th annual Slow Flowers Summit.

The garden's entrance has a distinctive lattice "wall" with slats spaced horizontally. It has a modern-looking vibe that promises an equally dazzling garden for those who enter. Designed by Seattle architecture firm Olson Kundig and completed in 2014, the area is part of a 8,500-square-foot visitor center complex that includes an outdoor covered orientation space, a gift shop, meeting rooms, office space and restrooms. The sheltering roof, fernery walls and small garden spaces unite nature with architecture, creating a flow between indoors and out.

I had a vision of a floral installation mounted here, as a special welcome to our guests and I spoke with garden director James Gagliardi and society director Joseph Abken about my idea. They gave us the go-ahead with the guidance that no greenery or stems could be woven in-and-out between the lattice, noting that it would be okay to attach the "base" of an installation with twine or zip ties.

Next, I needed the designer! I had the ideal person in mind to create a stunning piece for flower lovers and I asked Jim Martin of Compost in my Shoe if he would lend his talents. Jim has a long career managing horticulture for public and private gardens, but he is also a flower farmer at his private garden in Charleston, South Carolina. Jim's floral design talents are amazing and he has earned an European Masters Certification (EMC) and has studied extensively with Hitomi Gilliam and Gregor Lersch. We've been friends for many years, long before I started the Slow Flowers Movement, and I'm so happy we have reunited through flowers.

Jim planned to travel to the Seattle area early, so he had the time to build an installation on Sunday morning, the day prior to the Summit opening. But he needed some very special ingredients to make a statement piece! Joseph and James offered to set aside some branches, including lichen-clad ones, from the pruning projects taking place at BBG. Having these dramatic natural elements as a base gave Jim the structure and lines he wanted for his design.

I had recently attended a private garden party at Laughing Goat Gardens in Enumclaw, Washington, the property owned by Amy and Steve Brown. They are former Slow Flowers Members who are converting their flower farm into an event venue, so I knew the floral production there was incredible. I asked Amy whether I could bring Jim to Laughing Goat to harvest some of her branches and stems -- and she said "yes."

So that's why Saturday morning found Jim and me driving 45 minutes southeast of Seattle, buckets and clippers in hand, to meet Amy at her property.

She and Jim share a plant-geek passion, and while this was the first time they met, it was as if they were old horticulture pals. We harvested tons of greenery (eucalyptus, ninebark, cotinus), gathered pods and seed heads, and clipped some amazing blooms -- dahlias and martagon lilies, among other goodies like horse radish foliage. Basically, we fit as much as the back of my SUV would hold!

Jim worked by himself on the quiet Sunday morning, and by the time I arrived at the BBG in early afternoon, he was wrapping up. We knew it was a success when people arriving at the garden stopped to take photos and selfies in front of the stunning piece.

Jim was excited to use some of the new foam-free mechanics, including Agrawool and Oshun pouches. While we knew that many of the elements would look okay out of water for a few days, Jim particularly wanted the flowers to have a water source. All of the stems were successfully hidden within the design.

Thank you so much to all who made this entry installation happen, including Amy and Steve Brown, James Gagliardi, Joseph Abken, and the BBG garden staff! The wow factor was a bonus for all who attended the Slow Flowers Summit.


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