Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Northern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
March, 2009
Regional Report

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My rosary vine almost gave its life for this bouquet.

Bouquets to Art

The world is achingly green right now. The willows are dressed in chartreuse lace and the hills look like they are covered in emerald velvet. The wildflowers are in bloom on Mt. San Bruno and if we ever get a break in the rain, we can get out and enjoy it.

My friend Joycie and I are busy as beavers getting ready for the upcoming Bouquets to Art show at the DeYoung Museum in San Francisco. The idea behind Bouquets to Art is for floral artists to interpret one work of art in flowers. Joycie and I went to selection day in early January, hoping that my knee replacement surgery would be far enough behind me by mid March. It's going to be very close. I'm hobbling around, still a bit unsteady on my pins.

I have had the honor to participate in this major fundraiser for the past 17 or 18 years, and Joycie has been my steadfast companion through them all. It's nerve-wracking business putting together a bouquet for such a prestigious event. I have always used garden flowers for my arrangements (budgetary restrictions), but some people spend a fortune on flowers. Last year one fellow interpreted one of the Hudson River Valley paintings of Niagara Falls. The painting covered an entire wall and his arrangement was built on the same scale. He must have used 2,000 white orchids to replicate the roaring water.

The work I have selected for this year is located on the second floor of the museum and is a collage representation of George Washington done in dollar bills. I selected it because Henry has Chairman Mao done by the same artist hanging over his fireplace. I've always liked whimsical contemporary art.

Minor setbacks occur every year. This year, the asparagus fern (Asparagus plumosa) I had been training up a pole to use in my bouquet has fallen victim to the landlord. I am also having trouble finding a piggy bank to use as my container, but I haven't hit the dollar stores yet.

The day before set up at the DeYoung will find me cutting greens in my tiny garden, although, unfortunately, not the asparagus fern. I plan to use aspidistra, nephrolepis fern, and dusty miller. If I can find a piggy bank, I will use some pink lilies to complement the container. I like to condition the greens by plunging them into a container filled with tepid water and floral preservative and let them soak overnight. I have some antique-looking bunting to cover the pedestal and I plan to break the piggy bank and have some play money spilling out to represent my pitiful 401K. Joycie has been folding play paper money to look like flowers that we will also use in the arrangement.

We have to bring everything we could possibly need with us to the museum. Thankfully, over the years Joycie has come up with a utility list of things like plastic tarps, scissors, push pins, straight pins, safety pins, double sticky back tape, pruning shears, and dust pan and broom, not to mention the containers, flowers, and greens. It's a mighty load that must be compact enough to travel.

We like to finish early so we can wander through the DeYoung and see the other floral artists at work. Some people build their arrangements off site and just drop them off. Joycie and I did that last year, but we felt that we lost part of the experience. Frantic, frenetic, nervous, fun; set-up day is all this and more, plus, the auxiliary ladies feed us a lovely lunch!

If you get a chance, do plan to visit the DeYoung next week and experience the show first hand. The scent of the flowers and the exotic lighting bring the museum to life. Besides, you will be supporting a very excellent cause. Go to for more information.

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