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BEFORE ONE 20-foot-tall Field maple tree was placed in Westminster Abbey, before one guest admired a magnificent floral arrangement at Buckingham Palace and before Catherine Middleton placed her hands around the wedding bouquet she carried up the nave to marry Prince William, the first son of Prince Charles and Princess Diana, Shane Connolly’s exacting eye had approved it.
Not only approved everything, but designed it all, from the decorations at the Abbey, the wedding party flowers to the wedding dinner at the palace.
On March 13 and 14, though, he’ll give San Francisco audiences a behind-the-scenes look at how he produces his spectacular floral arrangements when he comes
to the de Young Museum for the annual Bouquets to Art.
This fragrant five-day floral spectacular, produced by the San Francisco Auxiliary of the Fine Arts Museum, pairs 150 floral designers with selected artworks.
Connolly, according to Bouquets to Art publicist Barbara Traisman, “is a warm and highly engaging speaker,” whose talks are underwritten by the museum’s Belvedere-Tiburon and San Francisco Auxiliaries. Two free tickets to his second talk, with admission to the floral display, are available in an easy contest on www.designswirl.co.
The London-based floral designer and author, handpicked by the royal couple as their artistic director for flowers, had also done the bouquet and
flowers for the 2005 wedding of Prince Charles to Camilla Parker Bowles and is known for his use of seasonal, natural and organic flowers. (Examples of his lush, elegant arrangements can be seen at www.shaneconnolly.co.uk.)
He says his presentation will be about “whatever is seasonal, local and inspirational at the San Francisco flower market, which is incidentally one of the most inspirational in the world! So, who knows what we’ll end up doing.
It’s more exciting that way.”
He brought that same philosophy to last year’s royal wedding when 20 people “worked to my direction” in that last week, he says. “The perfect situation for a control freak!”
His team drew upon the traditions of flowers of significance for the royal family and the Middleton family, and plans based upon the language of flowers.
So, for example, the shield-shaped bridal bouquet of myrtle, lily-of-the-valley, ivy and hyacinth, and Sweet William spoke of marriage, a return of happiness, fidelity and friendship, constancy of love, fidelity and friendship, and gallantry, respectively.
They myrtle stems came from a myrtle tree planted by Queen Victoria in 1845 and a sprig of it was carried by the
current queen in her bridal bouquet. The bridesmaids’ flowers were ivy and lily-of-the-valley hair wreaths inspired by Catherine Middleton’s wedding headdress.
Although he dealt with large amounts of flowers, Connolly says has no idea of how much plant material was used in the wedding events. “No statistics whatsoever,” he says. “We didn’t have time to weigh or measure.”
He does know there were eight trees placed in Westminster Abbey, an element that caused on online sensation, as people had never seen trees there before.
“I thought of it knowing that medieval vaulted ceilings were inspired by the effect of branches in forests, so it seemed to be appropriate and beautiful too,” he explains.
His floral displays in
Westminster Abbey featured a variety of seasonal growing and cut British flowers and trees — azaleas, rhododendron, beech, wisteria and lilac, for example — sourced from royal estates and other growers around the country. Afterward, the trees and other growing plants were donated to charities or re-planted, according to the wedding couple’s wishes.
Every choice “reflected our own ideas,” he says of the royal couple and himself. “Things were British, simple and, preferably, growing. It was a lucky meeting of the minds.”
He’s just “delighted that it all went off so happily and smoothly. There was so much goodwill, and it was such a pleasure to work with everyone from the background people to the main players.”
tips for decorating with flowers? “I’d be delighted if the idea of using local, seasonal, and where appropriate, growing things, were the lessons,” he says.
His favorite tip for brides? “Imagine the sort of handbag you’d choose to go with your dress when you choose your bouquet,” he says. “It’s a great guide to what size and color is right for you. And, often, you realize that it should, like a handbag for an elegant evening dress, be small and the same color as the dress.”
PJ Bremier writes on home, garden, design and entertaining topics every Saturday and also on her blog at DesignSwirl.net. She may be contacted at P.O. Box 412, Kentfield, CA 94914, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
if you go
What: Bouquets to Art
Where: de Young Museum, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco
When: 9:30 a.m. to 5:15 p.m. March 13, 14, 15 and 17; 9:30 a.m. to 8:45 p.m. March 16;
Tickets: $16 to $20
Information: 800-777-9996, bouquetstoart.famsf.org
More: Floral demonstration programs are offered and cost $35; optional tickets available for luncheons, teas and opening gala.