Homer, Alaska-based flower farmers Beth Van Sandt and Kurt Weichhand of Scenic Place Peonies know a thing or two about promoting their luxurious peonies. They have hosted ongoing farm tours, workshops, photo shoots and the 2017 Field to Vase Dinner — all designed to connect florists and flower lovers with the unique beauty of Alaska-grown peonies in Homer, which has been declared the City of Peonies.
As part of the 2017 F2V Dinner, they partnered with Kelly Shore of Petals by the Shore, who served as the featured designer. That experience included Kelly and Beth’s collaboration on a photo shoot featuring peonies and Homer’s unique fishing roots, which were included in the botanical couture collection for American Flowers Week in 2018.
Flowers and fashion are coming together again in 2022, as part of the women’s shared passion for peonies. They will debut what is hoped to be an annual event called Fleur de Paeonia, as part of this summer’s Homer Peony Celebration. According to Beth, she was inspired to dress mannequins in peony-centric fashions after attending and volunteering at the Northwest Flower & Garden Festival in 2020, which featured the Fleurs de Villes floral fashion installation.
Fleur de Paeonia will feature six mannequins dressed in peony fashions, which will be displayed to the public for free on Friday, July 22nd, at Bear Creek Winery in Homer. “If I hadn’t seen Fleurs de Villes in Seattle, I never would have really known what botanical couture could be,” Beth says. “It was just so mesmerizing to see the designs and the intricate details that the florists there created. And I realized we could do something similar with mannequins and include it as part of the Alaska Peony Retreat.”
The 2022 Alaska Peony Retreat is being produced by Kelly’s sister business, The Floral Source. “I’ve spent a week in Homer for each of the last five summers and now I am inviting others to join me for the ultimate floral retreat,” Kelly explains.
Since that first summer in 2017 when Kelly visited Scenic Place Peonies, she and Beth have brainstormed ideas for a peony immersion for professional florists. Kelly previously ran a smaller retreat for out-of-state florists and taught design workshops for Alaska’s floral community. She says all those prior elements are coming together for the 2022 Alaska Peony Retreat.
“Fleur de Paeonia makes the retreat a much more elaborate and hands-on opportunity for our attendees to be part of the Homer community, which from the beginning was why I went to Alaska and why I wanted to be the featured designer at the Field to Vase dinner in 2017,” Kelly says. “It is about honoring this community and telling their story.”
Open to 12 designers, the six-day educational retreat and workshop includes peony farm tours, floral design and installations that will be photographed, the Fleur de Paeonia installation, and will culminate in an intimate farm dinner at Scenic Place Peonies. Teams of two designers will each collaborate to reimagine a dazzling selection of Alaska-grown peonies in all their stunning petal colors and forms, as floral fashion. “People will be paired up before they travel to Alaska to determine the theme of the couture,” Kelly explains. “We’ll have a full day spent prepping and building the life-sized designs to be displayed at the winery’s gardens. And one look will receive the ‘people’s choice Alaskan Basket’ at the conclusion.”
Both women dream that these events and experiences centered around Alaska-grown peonies will change how florists and their clients view seasonality and domestic flower sourcing. Beth hopes Fleur de Paeonia becomes an annual tradition during the Homer Peony Celebration. For her part, Kelly believes that only good things will result from connecting more of her peers, other florists and designers, with the beauty and bounty of the Alaska peony industry. “I truly want people to immerse themselves in peonies while also gaining a solid understanding of why these blooms are so important to the floral industry and to their own businesses.”
Calendar of Events
Homer Peony Celebration (July 8-30, 2022), a production of the Homer Chamber of Commerce.
Fleur de Paeonia (July 22, 2022)
Alaska Peony Retreat (July 18-23, 2022), produced by The Floral Source.