Tuesday, March 10, 2015

New York in Bloom 2015

Yes, New York in Bloom (NYIB) 2015 ended on February 22, and yes, I really should be crafting a post entitled "Hilary Clinton's e-mail," but at the moment I'm recuperating from the flu, dealing with  a ton  of time-consuming legal and financial stuff, and feeling the need for a night off. "Hilary Clinton's e-mail" will go up as soon as I feel capable of formulating some coherent thoughts about the former Secretary of State's e-mail issues. Moreover, NYIB posts are something an annual ritual for me, and family obligations compelled me to miss NYIB 2014 altogether and to delay posting about NYIB 2015. At this point in my life, minor rituals mean a lot.

New York in Bloom is the New York State Museum's annual fundraiser for its after-school programs, which serve children and teenagers who live in some of Albany's roughest neighborhoods. It's also a much-needed respite from the upstate New York winter: professional and amateur floral arrangers create displays that complement the Museum's exhibits, and their work brings a touch of tropical fragrance and warmth into the Museum.

One of the Museum's largest permanent exhibits is devoted to the Adirondack region. As one might expect, many of the arrangements in this exhibit had a decidedly rustic quality.
Alexis Fairau of Chatham Florist used some flowers that might be found within settled parts of the Adirondacks -- amaryllis, roses, snapdragons, and tulips -- and some that would be found only within an Adirondack greenhouse -- Aussie pine, eucalyptus, leucodendron, and pincushion protea -- to create this colorful yet woodsy-looking arrangement.

This understated, crowd-pleasing arrangement consisted exclusively of daffodils, and it blended beautifully with the large-scale image of the Adirondack forest. It was created by Michelle Peters of Ambiance Florals and Events.

Cody Swift of Renaissance Floral Designs used trunks and an artful array of tulips, Cymbidium orchids, muscari, hellebores, stars of Bethlehem, seeded eucalyptus, and moss to complement the section of the exhibit devoted to tourism.

Not every arrangement within the Adirondack exhibit was designed to blend in. The life-sized display representing Adirondack loggers at work always receives dramatic treatment, and 2015 was no exception. The arrangement above was part of a large, exuberantly tropical display created by the staff of Poppytree Designs and Weathered Wood. Few Adirondack lumberjacks ever encountered palm fronts, anthriums, birds of paradise, or many of the other flowers and foliage plants that comprise this arrangement.
Some NYIB arrangements take the form of "tablescapes." This elegant, eye-catching tablescape, which sits outside the entrance to a temporary paleobotany exhibit, was created by Donald Benn of White Cottage Gardens. Its arrangements consist of hydrangea, tree fern, juniper, leather leaf, and roses.

Sitting literally at the feet of the skeleton of the Cohoes Mastodon, which is the centerpiece of an exhibit documenting prehistoric life in New York, this gorgeous arrangement consists of pincushion protea, spider chrysanthemums, tea roses, Hypericum berries, orchids, Asiatic lilies, amaranth, monstera leaves, ti leaves, sword ferns, salal, moss, horsetail rushes, moon lagoon eucalyptus, and grapevine. Tom Hofmeister of The Floral Garden created it.

This arresting composition adorned the western entrance to Museum's Bird Hall. Jeanne Futerko created it with Asiatic lilies, bear grass, dianthus, dogwood, lycopodium, myrtle, trachelium, and a pheasant.

The Museum's Exhibition Hall is currently home to The Shakers: America's Quiet Revolutionariesa mammoth exhibit that documents the settlements, theological beliefs, communal life, economic activity and design legacy of the Shakers who lived in western Massachusetts and New York's Capital District (on display through 6 March 2016). Kathleen Rohlfs of Chatham Flowers used sunflowers, Eryngium thistle, silver dollar eucalyptus, leucadendron protea, allium and berzelia to create the appealing arrangement that sat at the exhibit's entrance.

A Promising Venture: Shaker Photographs from the WPA (on display through 31 December 2015) occupies the adjacent Photography Hall, and I loved the arrangement that graced its entrance. Erin Brady placed veronica, greentrick, pussy willow, dusty miller, silver brunia, English boxwood, hyacinth, and waxflower in the simplest of containers: a galvanized metal rain gutter.

The Museum's Crossroads Gallery currently houses Represent: Contemporary Native American Art (on display through 30 September 2015), which features paintings, sculptures, beadwork, basketry, and other works created by Mohawk, Onondaga, Cayuga, Seneca, Tuscarora, and Shinnecock artists. Anthony Macarelli's arrangement of carnations, chrysanthemums, irises, delphinium, yarrow, and assorted greens beautifully complemented the adjacent works.

The Museum's eastern gallery features a permanent exhibit focusing on the natural and human history of New York City. Karen Campbell of Henry F. Clas Florist used carnations, roses, chrysanthemums, freesia, delphiniums, wax flowers, and Sweet William to depict the tail of a humpback whale. (BTW, the process of preparing a whale skeleton for exhibit and study is even more disgusting than one might think. I have deep respect for the Museum colleagues who do this work -- and am deeply glad that red rot and occasional flood damage are the worst things I encounter.)

Sarah Straw, Linda Donegan, and Luanne Whitbeck of the Honest Weight Food Coop used carnations (full-size and miniature), asters, Ti leaves, broom corn, protea solidago, pothos, bean pods, fur, and stones to create an arrangement that harmonized beautifully with a replica of a traditional Lenape dwelling.

The section of the exhibit documenting New York's rise as a port city featured a lovely arrangement created by Louise Kavanaugh and Connie Strong Wilbur of the Bethlehem Garden Club. This delicate ship consisted of gladiolus, black pussy willow, Aspidistra leaves, kale, purple trachellium, roses, and galax leaves.

The section of the exhibit documenting the city's modern transportation systems featured this arresting floral buoy. It consists of moonshade carnations, Dendrobium orchids, English ivy, peach hypericum, Gypsy dianthus, bamboo, and steel grass, and it was created by Arnie Maliszewski of The Country Florist.

The newest component of the Museum's New York City exhibit concerns the events of 11 September 2001 and their aftermath. When it first opened, visitors conducted themselves as if they were at a funeral: they spoke in hushed tones, shushed their children, and those who took pictures looked guilty about doing so. Solemnity still creeps into the behavior of many people who enter this space, but they now speak above whispers, children are a little noiser, and the picture-taking is open and unapologetic. From time to time, one even hears laughter.  I couldn't help but notice that the NYIB arrangements installed at the entrance to this exhibit have undergone a similar evolution. In past years, they would not have looked out of place at a memorial service. This year's arrangement evokes both the twisted metal artifacts on display and the renewal of life. Mary A. Bonner of the New York State Capital District Sogetsu Study Group created it with king protea, sago palm, pink wax flower, and Aspidistra leaves.

Top photo: this lovely arrangement complements a vintage New York City taxi cab. I photographed it a few minutes before NYIB 2015 ended, and the placard identifying its creator and components had already been taken down. If you know who created it, please leave a comment or send me a message.

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