Flowering Filoli

The Slow Flowers Summit “Floral Takeover” was a top feature of our June 2021 experience.

Buckets of donated flowers and gathered cuttings from Filoli’s grounds (c) Missy Palacol Photography
Beth Barnett (left) and Jessica Broyles (right), collaborating in Filoli’s Kitchen (c) Missy Palacol Photography

Thousands of donated blooms, many from the farms and gardens of members who were in attendance, combined with hundreds of bunches of greenery, branches and other “wild-gathered” elements provided by Filoli’s Horticulture team, and dozens of hands of creatives who reinterpreted the interior spaces of a historic mansion using vintage vessels . . . it was a floral explosion of the highest degree.

Designing in the Reception Room (c) Missy Palacol Photography

The idea originated from the Horticulture team, who early on invited Slow Flowers to add a “floral takeover” component to the Summit. The unprecedented invitation allowed our attendees to collaborate as teams, room by room, indoors and outdoors, with grand gestures and exquisite details alike.

It was no small feat to pull off this ambitious undertaking, especially because we only scheduled 3-4 hours for design and installation. But inspired by a morning filled with floral demonstrations from Susan McLeary and Max Gill, and faced with the prospect of getting so many incredibly fresh and local botanicals in their hands, our attendees jumped right in and made some serious floral magic take place.

Tobey Nelson
Tobey Nelson – in the mix as producer of the Filoli Floral Takeover (c) Jenny M. Diaz Photography

A special, huge bouquet of thanks goes to Tobey Nelson, our Floral Takeover Producer, whose organizing skills are unparalleled. In advance of the Summit, Tobey coordinated with Kate Nowell at Filoli, and several other Horticulture team members, to plan the installation parameters for numerous indoor spaces, including the Butler’s Pantry, Kitchen, two Hallways, Dining Room, Drawing Room, Reception Room, Ballroom and Ladies Cloak Room; two large outdoor spaces at the Main Entrance and Dining Room Terrace; and the Visitor’s Center.

Susan Schultze designing in Traverse Hall (c) Missy Palacol Photography

We asked veteran designers and florists in attendance, all Slow Flowers members, to take the lead for each space, creating teams of florists, growers and creatives to join them as team members. Before all this took place, however, Tobey and others organized buckets of flowers and foliages for each room, taking into consideration both palette, but also some of the Curator’s requirements for protecting rooms filled with historic textiles and artwork (ferns were not allowed, nor were cut flowers likely to drop debris like lilies or amaranth).

I liken the Slow Flowers Summit to a retreat with flowers and with flower-inspired people. I came away feeling that flowers are more than just beauty in the garden and vase. They are truly the soul of the earth and we are their soulmates.”

Attendee comment
Visitors Center floral installation
Designing at the Visitors Center (c) Missy Palacol Photography

As this chaotic idea came to life, as buckets of flowers transformed from art supplies to elegant compositions worthy of this beautiful architectural setting, something else also occurred. Each person who participated, both as a designer and as an observer marveled at the immersive experience and felt uplifted by one another. We captured an opportunity to collaborate for the sheer pleasure of the moment in time. We expanded our community of kindred spirits; new flower friendships formed with those who otherwise may never have met; and the seeds for future growth were planted, as well.

Dining Room Terrace
Designing on the Dining Room Terrace (c) Missy Palacol Photography

As one of our attendees expressed in the post-Summit survey: “I liken the Slow Flowers Summit to a retreat with flowers and with flower-inspired people. I came away feeling that flowers are more than just beauty in the garden and vase. They are truly the soul of the earth and we are their soulmates.”

Tour the Floral Takeover, room by room

trio of detail shots
Floral moments captured in detail (c) Jenny M. Diaz Photography

Main Entry: Susan Stremlau, Marion Moss Floral Design

Filoli main entry
A talented team led by Susan Stremlau of Marion Moss Floral Design transformed the main entrance with greenery and flowers (c) Missy Palacol Photography
Main Entry
There are two intimate niches on either side of the doorway — a gorgeous, verdant installation (c) Missy Palacol Photography

Butler’s Pantry: Kelly Shore, Petals by the Shore

Kitchen in process
Led by Kelly Shore of Petals by the Shore, a team of designers “flowers” the Butler’s Pantry (c) Missy Palacol Photography
Butler's Pantry
A large installation covers the center table in the Butler’s Pantry (c) Missy Palacol Photography
Butler's Pantry floral installation
Another view of the tablescape in Filoli’s Butler’s Pantry (c) Missy Palacol Photography

Kitchen: Beth Barnett, Larkspur Chicago

Kitchen Installation
The Filoli Kitchen team created an herbal green palette (c) Missy Palacol Photography
Kitchen detail
Exquisite details of the Kitchen installation (c) Missy Palacol Photography

Transverse Hall: Casey Schwartz & Kit Wertz, Flower Duet

Traverse Hall
A stunning column and architectural window details set the perfect stage for this elevated arrangement by the Transverse Hall team led by Flower Duet. Left image (c) Jenny M. Diaz; right image (c) Missy Palacol
Centerpiece Traverse Hall
Natural and monochromatic, a lush centerpiece on the Transverse Hall sideboard (c) Missy Palacol Photography

Dining Room: Sarah Reyes, Wildflower & Fern

dining room centerpiece
Led by Wildflower & Fern’s Sarah Reyes, the dining room team created a lovely centerpiece (c) Jenny M. Diaz
designers at work
Designers collaborating on the seasonal centerpiece for the dining room (c) Missy Palacol Photography

Drawing Room: Susan Chambers, bloominCouture

Drawaing Room
A classical centerpiece with local blooms in the Drawing Room (c) Jenny M. Diaz Photography

Reception Room: Rachel Johnson, Simply Grounded

Reception Room
Rachel Johnson of Simply Grounded led a team in the Reception Room. Her are two views of their work. Left (c) Jenny M. Diaz; right (c) Missy Palacol

North Hall: Gina Thresher, From the Ground Up Floral

North Hall arrangement
Defying gravity, the flowers soar to new heights and cascade beyond the table’s edge in the North Hall niche. Left: (c) Jenny M. Diaz; right: (c) Missy Palacol

Ballroom: Anahit Hakobyan, Viva La Flora Designs and Maura Whalen, Casablanca Floral

Many designers broght their talents to the Filoli Ballroom (c) Missy Palacol Photography
One urn two ways
Led by Anahit Hakobyan, designers filld a glorious urn for display on a pedestal near the Ballroom’s concert stage. Left (c) Missy Palacol; right (c) Jenny M. Diaz

Ballroom Centerpieces

Dining Room Centerpieces
Teams of designers, led by Maura Whalen, created arrangements for a trio of skirted tables that line each side of the Ballroom dance floor. Each lovely arrangement is displayed in a vintage vessel from Filoli’s collection (c) Missy Palacol Photography
Two urns
Beautiful arrangements to complement the ballroom’s soft murals (c) Missy Palacol Photography
Ballroom urns
Two more designs for this lavish environment (c) Missy Palacol Photography

Ladies Cloak Room: Nicole Skalski, California Sister Floral Design & Supply

Ladies Cloak Room flowers
Mother and daughter team, Nicole and Stella Skalski teamed up in the Ladies Cloak Room, with a lovely expression of local flowers (c) Missy Palacol Photography

Terrace: Stephanie Downes, Vanita Floral

flowers for the dining terrace
Many hands, led by Stephanie Downes, brought flowers alive on the Dining Terrace (c) Missy Palacol Photography
Terrace decorating
Love this large-scale installation that literally climbs up the tree at the center of the Dining Terrace. Left (c) Jenny M. Diaz; right (c) Missy Palacol
Hands on design
Hands-on design and a collaborative installation at the Filoli Floral Takeover. Left (c) Jenny M. Diaz; right (c) Missy Palacol

Visitor’s Center: Molly Culver, Molly Oliver Flowers

Visitors Center takeover
Led by Slow Flowers Summit speaker Molly Culver of Molly Oliver Flowers, the floral takeover at the Visitor’s Center features a 360-degree installation (c) Missy Palacol Photography
Tail of the peacock
The “tail” of this incredible piece prompted the designers to call it “the Peacock,” and little did they know at the time about Filoli’s tradition of peacocks roaming the grounds! (c) Missy Palacol Photography

Woodland Garden Court Centerpieces: Hannah Muller, Full Belly Farm

centerpieces at filoli
Led by Hannah Muller, many hands created centerpieces for the tables at Woodland Garden Court, where the Summit sessions took place. (c) Missy Palacol Photography
Details, textures, unique botanicals fill small glass vases for each table at Woodland Garden Court (c) Missy Palacol Photography

Debra Prinzing

Debra Prinzing is a Seattle-based writer, speaker and leading advocate for American-grown flowers. Through her many Slow Flowers-branded projects, she has convened a national conversation that encourages consumers and professionals alike to make conscious choices about their floral purchases. Debra is the producer of SlowFlowers.com, the weekly "Slow Flowers Podcast" and the American Flowers Week (June 28-July 4) campaign. Debra is author of 11 books, including Slow Flowers (2013), The 50 Mile Bouquet (2012) and Slow Flowers Journal (2020). She is the co-founder of BLOOM Imprint, the boutique publishing arm of Slow Flowers.

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Slow Flowers Journal is brought to you by SlowFlowers.com. Slow Flowers is an award-winning online directory created to help consumers find florists, studio designers, wedding and event planners, supermarket flower departments and flower farmers that supply American grown flowers. Founded in 2014, the site has grown to 850 members across the U.S.


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For more information, please contact Debra Prinzing
at 206-769-8211 or 844-SLOWFLO (844-756-9356); debra(at)slowflowers.com.