2011 Horticultural Society of New York Dinner Dance and Flower Show
Katie Mendelson visits this year's Horticultural Society of New York Dinner Dance and Flower Show (theme: "Fire and Ice") and reports on her favorite tablescapes.
When I found out that not only would this year’s Horticultural Society of New York’s dinner dance would not only be featuring floral presentations and tablescapes from an array of well-known New York designers, but also honoring my cousin Frances Tenenbaum, an author and legendary former garden editor, in addition to architect and interior designer David Easton, Martha Stewart Living gardening Editorial Director Stephen Orr, and Alex Timbers, artistic director of Les Freres Corbusier, I decided that I would attend.
However, the $650 starting cost of a ticket was (just slightly!) out of my price range. Luckily, prior to the dance on Tuesday evening, the Horticultural Society held an afternoon preview of the event, which allowed me to catch a glimpse of the stunning, and occasionally over-the-top, floral arrangements and table designs. The theme for 2011, “fire and ice,” invited a wide variety of configurations, some simple, some flashy, some downright ostentatious as the designers riffed on the concept, playing with the use of chile peppers, jewels dangling from stems, and lots and lots of candles. Here are a few of my favorites.
My flower tastes lean towards earthy arrangements that incorporate a variety of natural materials, so I was drawn to Rebecca Cole Designs’ table, which held white anemones with the tiniest hint of red glowing on their petals, an assortment of branches, and blocks of ice that would eventually melt and be contained in a wood-like fountain. Of her design, Cole said, “We’re not the biggest fan of red, so we were thinking ice. I thought ice vases would be so cool, I wanted them to be just simple blocks of ice and then we started thinking of a vessel. Our look is kind of modern organic, so we designed modern tables with a sculptural, rustic cement that can be used as a fountain.”
It was nearly impossible to avoid the magnetic pull of Janet Simon and Jerry Rose Floral & Event Design's “garden from hell.” Their table, which glowed red from a abundance of red roses, berries, and flickering candlelight, made for an interesting combination of impeccable choreography and wild growth.
Janet Simon took her inspiration from Diana Vreeland, saying “I remembered her living room, which she asked Billy Baldwin to decorate for her. She said, ‘I want my living room to look like a garden, a garden in hell.’ We started with an Alice in Wonderland idea—you wander through the charred bits and all of a sudden you’d come upon this beautiful garden that would be all red and gold and devilish. It could be a party with a cake with a raven that would land with a diamond in his mouth, our version of ice. We’re really all about fire here.”
Rod Winterrowd imagined “Dinner at the Burtons, Gstaad, 1965,” adorning his table with photographs of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, antlers, and a snow-covered evergreen. Here, he interpreted the “fire and ice” theme literally with red flowers and a winter’s scene, accented with his presentation of the fiery romance between Taylor and Burton.
As of late, my heart has belonged to cherry blossoms, so I found myself particularly taken with the simple, sweeping arrangements of blossoms fashioned by both Hartley duPont (shown here) and Plant Fantasies Incorporated. In the midst of a sea of often gaudy and highly engineered designs, the presence of such natural, seasonal blooms was refreshing.
Sebastian Li winked a playful (and flashy eye) at the “fire and ice” concept, pulling together an eye-popping collection of birds of paradise flowers that topped a metallic snakeskin tablecloth and favors of disposable lighters and Polar Ice gum.