Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
February, 2010
Regional Report

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Award-winning floral designer Jamie Rothstein attaches fresh, gray sphagnum moss to an elephant topiary frame for her "Flowers! The Jewels of an Indian Wedding" showcase exhibit.

Step into India and More - At Philadelphia International Flower Show

"Traditionally in Indian art, the elephant's trunk reaches up, which means good luck," explained Philadelphia floral designer Jamie Rothstein. "In India the groom rides to his wedding ceremony on an elephant," she added, as she draped a mane of fresh, gray-green sphagnum moss on the life-size pachyderm topiary. The moss completely covering the frame will give it "the realistic feel and look of skin".

Last week, Rothstein and her team were calm, all smiles, yet moving every minute as they built her showcase exhibit "Flowers! The Jewels of an Indian Wedding" for the Philadelphia International Flower Show. This year"s Flower Show theme is "Passport to the World" featuring floral interpretations of India, South Africa, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Brazil, and Singapore.

Rothstein uses pattern, texture, and color to create mosaics reflective of Indian life and culture. She and her cheerful staff were taking colorful, carefully selected raw materials- orange lentils, scarlet amaranth, purple pepperberries, exhibit drawings, paint, plywood, and more- and painstakingly crafting an Indian wedding garden.

Everything is as authentic as possible,physically and symbolically, Rothstein said. The fountain and saddle mosaics are detailed with dried seedpods, dried oranges, red lentils, white tapioca, thistle, and acanthus leaves. Ornamental tropical plants indigenous to India will surround the reflecting pools. Rothstein has a friend and colleague from India, with whom she consults. In the workroom, she keeps a stack of beautiful books about India, brimming with exquisite photographs she enjoys referencing.

Marigold Dilemma
Every Indian wedding has a mandapa - a hall, porch, temporary platform or sacred tent for the Hindu wedding or other religious ceremony - covered with yards of orange marigold garlands. In India marigolds are ubiquitous; they grow there like weeds year-round. Marigolds are also foremost in the elephant's floral blanket and other decorations.

In her 23 years of exhibiting, this 2010 wedding tableau has been "the most difficult to figure out," Rothstein confided. India's favorite flower, the marigold is seasonal here. Also, marigolds don't hold up well when cut. What could substitute?

Fortunately carnations passed Rothstein's test. They hold up well and rehydrate easily. She anticipated stringing 5,000 to 6,000 orange carnations into garlands they'd remove each night to soak, petals and all, in water for 3 to 4 hours. Her standards are high. "Everything in the exhibit has to be as fresh when it comes out in 10 days as when it went in," she says.

Calculating and ordering mosaic materials was also challenging. They drew patterns, measured, then pressed flower against flower, tapioca bead against amaranth stem to see how many to order. February snowstorms delayed shipments, which complicated the production schedule.

"The Flower Show is my fun project for the year," she exclaimed. "It takes a team to bring it to life. I am blessed with wonderful people on my staff." First, the ideas for the exhibit take shape in her brain. Through the year, she and her staff "tweak" the details together. "I talk with them about how to make it work. They laugh. 'Can you figure out a way to make it?' I ask. They always do."

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