Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Thrilling Tillandsias: Summer Wedding Celebrations with Air Plants!

Tillandsias have regained such popularity the past few years thanks to a number of different designers who've utilized them extensively in products aimed towards urban dwellers who have limited time and space for plants. Flora Grubb in San Francisco is probably one of the more prominent promoters of air plants and it has truly taken off and when one comes up with a great idea and takes it to the next level, others will follow and copy!  Hhahahaha

In a way, her and her designers work inspire me to re-discover the world of Tillandsias and use them in ways I never thought I could. It's an interest and fascination I've had since I was in my preteens when I was really introduced to them by Rick Owens of Owen's Gardens. He and his wife, Barbara, have been such supporters of my career for a long time and I wanted to use their plants in my work.

Tillandsia is a genus from the family of Bromeliads, which includes the Pineapple. There are just under 600 species native to the tropical regions of the Americas and the West Indies.  I first discovered them mounted on seashells attached to magnets in grocery stores and found it absolutely fascinating that they were live plants that didn't need soil to grow.

Tillandsia straminea. A fragrant blooming species

I began collecting them and was drawn to species that had fragrant flowers. Then my interest gravitated towards outdoor plants and my collection literally dried up as I forgot to keep them misted and I didn't have a bright spot indoors to keep them happy. My interest in them never waned as I would visit Barb and Rick each year for the Northwest Flower and Garden Show and check out their amazing selection.

My shipment of Tillandsias from Rick and Barb at Owen's Gardens
Assorted Tillandsias with Aeoniums
As I got more involved with floral arranging this year and began seeing Tillandsias in various designs, I decided to begin working with them again. I've found that their texture works very well with succulents (another hot and trendy thing now, too), but just as a filler and unique curiosity in a bouquet, for example, makes for a great conversation piece!!
Tillandsia xerographica

In the run up and preparation for my friend, Michelle's, wedding, she has asked me to do the flower for her whole wedding and knowing her, I wanted to create somthing absolutely unique and one of a kind. Inspired by a bouquet created by Flora Grubb's floral designer, Susie Nadler, I wanted to incorporate one of the grand daddies of all Tillandsia species commonly available to enthusiast, T. xerographica.

 You may remember Michelle from my friend, Karina's, wedding back in May. She was a bridesmaid then and now she gets to be centerstage along with her now husband, Genc, who tied the knot just North of Seattle at Michelle's former church. Again, aiming to use mostly locally grown and sourced materials, I took Michelle and Genc to the Seattle Wholesale Grower's Market and introduced them to the growers of the plants and flowers I would be using to decorate their church. I want to make a separate post about her bouquet to really showcase the variety of exquisite plants and flowers I used, but this was the grand result:

Another celebration took place shortly after Michelle and Genc's wedding. My friends and avid gardeners, Jeff Schouten and Daniel Sparler, had their wedding this February as same-sex marriage was FINALLY approved and recognized in the State of Washington. As part of their festivities, I volunteered to help prepare their garden for a summer celebration of 200+ guest. As a "thank you", they invited me to dinner where I brought Daniel a belated birthday gift of the succulents and Tillandsia composition above imbellished with a few more species and a most unusual poppy seed head, which I also used in Michelle's bouquet.

The wait staff and cooks picked up on his enthusiasm... he put it on to show!!

Who knows how long this trend will last, but I'm sure having a great time with them. The early fascination with air plants still lingers today and I continue to integrate them in a lot of my fun projects!

Have a look and tell me what you think!

I raided a friend's garden in Portland, OR and worked in a few Tillandsias in an arrangement I made for them

Marcia Donahue's "Narcissus ceramicus" flanked by succulents and more airplants!!

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