Wednesday, March 5, 2014

A collaborative design: Northwest Flower and Garden Show 2014 Floral Competition

While I was relieved not to have done a show garden at this year's Northwest Flower and Garden Show, I still wanted to take part and it was actually the show manager, Cyle Eldred, who called and recommended that I enter a floral arrangement for the floral competition after seeing some of my work posted on Facebook and Instagram.

I seriously considered designing on my own, but I saw another opportunity present itself when I learned that floral designer, Nicole Cordier, wanted to collaborate on a project. Thanks to our mentor, Slow Flowers ambassador and garden writer Debra Prinzing, who planted the idea in our minds, we set forth and planned out an arrangement that would reflect our aesthetic and showcase the love for what we do.

Throughout our entire process, it seemed like that was the underlying goal: to have fun and create something that we knew people around us would absolutely love. Yes, it was a floral competition with a cash prize and all, but just to participate and have fun working together was important for Nicole and I.

I might have mentioned Nicole a few months back when I talked about teaming up with young floral designers who were aspiring to be urban cut flower growers. A native of Colorado, she was drawn to the lushness of the Pacific Northwest and made Seattle her home for the past few years. Having recently married and now expecting a baby boy come April, life couldn't have moved faster for Nicole this past year, but she's handled it well!  Working for the Seattle Wholesale Grower's Market and then a local floral shop in West Seattle, Nicole has been profiled by garden columnist Valerie Easton and has made many friends and contacts in the industry.

As experienced and talented as she is, Nicole is a lot like me in that she's not very good at tooting her own horn. Hehehe. While I thought I was poor in marketing myself, Nicole didn't even have business cards as we began brainstorming ideas for our display.

I began to anticipate that this display would be Nicole's coming out party. It would be her chance to really get her name out there and I simply had to step back and just assist in any way I could. During one of our meetings, we brainstormed ideas for her business name and I strongly felt that her last name "Cordier" (pronounced kor-dee-yay) sounded classy, high-end, and could easily stand alone.

For the show, she went with Cordier - Botanical Art and, most recently, I fantasized for her having a lavish studio that would be referred to as "The Botanical Floral House of Cordier".

"Botanical" is the key phrase that made me so enthusiastic about working with Nicole.   She has a fondness for natural flora; forest elements such as moss and ferns captivate her.

Using as much seasonal and local material we could source, we moved in and looked as if I had planned another show garden with the quantity of materials we gathered. From Camellia foliage and buds from her garden to potted pitcher plants from a local grower, locally forced bulbs and branches, and even moss and lichen from work comprised of our display we entitled, "Enrapture".

With a suspended manzanita branch (Arctostaphylos sp.) above with illuminated tips as the central vein of this display, the idea was the branch would pull a botanical tableau from the mossy ground unveiling a colorful and unique palette of earthly delights.

Bright red Ranunculus grown in Oregon with Cymbidium orchids from Canada and blackberries from California.

Saraccenia (Pitcher Plants) with Peterkort roses from Oregon, Nicole's Camellias surprisingly opened to our delight and matched the colors perfectly and the silver Brunia adds a lovely texture.

Scented hyacinths from British Columbia, Helleborus x Cinnamon Snow from my garden and the dramatic leaf of Anthurium clarinervium)

Another batch of stunning Seraccenia

We found out the results of the judging the following day and were a little bummed that our display didn't place, but our satisfaction was obvious regardless having left the convention center after we put the finishing touches on before judging. Nicole saying she had fun was our first place ribbon!

Throughout the show, groups of people would stop and take their time and admire our work. The feedback we got was so positive and I was relieved that Nicole had finally gotten a stack of business cards because she would constantly run out.

The day before the show closed, I get a text from Nicole saying a shiny purple ribbon appeared on the table! We had won the "People's Choice Award"!!

The remnants of our display loaded back in my truck with the other remaining flowers shared with passerby show attendees as we dismantled our display. It's a little tradition I have that I'm glad Nicole embraced as she wholeheartedly handed roses to anyone who'd take them as they exited the show.

There goes a wonderful talent and kind heart. Until her next masterpiece...


  1. I will toot Nicole's horn. She is someone I've known from Denver, from my son and daughter in law and from several experiences related to her passion. She is supremely talented and a true artist.

  2. so proud of Nicole AND Riz - and truly YOU are my mentors, friends. I love you both and I am delighted to follow along as you flourish in your careers,
    it's an honor to know you and observe you both as your talent, grace, humanity and love of beauty inspires so many, Debra

  3. I wish I could have seen your creation in person! (sad to have missed the show this year). My favorite moment was reading you received the peoples choice award, well that was until reading about your giving away flowers to passers-by. I'm sure you both put smiles on lots of faces.