Incredible, Impressive, Heartfelt. American-grown.
Something pretty amazing took place a few months ago when the Wholesale Florist & Floral Supplier Association (also known as WFFSA) conference was held in Miami.
As attendees from around the world walked into the Miami Airport & Convention Center, they were greeted by an 8-by-12 foot “Stars and Stripes” flag fabricated out of approximately 10,000 stems of foliage and flowers.
Designed by Slowflowers.com member Christy Hulsey of Colonial House of Flowers, the amazing, three-dimensional installation was impossible to ignore. “It stood proudly in the lobby of the conference registration area for all to see and it was a beautiful piece, enjoyed by many people who took their picture with it throughout the week,” says Kasey Cronquist, administrator of Certified American Grown Flowers, who envisioned the giant floral flag, invited Christy to produce it and recruited numerous flower farms to contribute thousands of flowers and foliage stems for its construction.
While this story has nothing specific to do with American Flowers Week, I want to share Christy’s story of passion, commitment to her family and community, and love of American flowers. This is a story of total sacrifice and it shouldn’t go unrecognized.
PLUS, I think you’ll draw inspiration as you plan your own over-the-top way to celebrate American Flowers Week 2017! You just might want to build your own FLORAL FLAG!
“There’s nothing more near and dear to me than American flowers,” Christy says. “It was such an honor to create this piece.”
The larger-than-life botanical endeavor came together with ingenuity and sheer determination, the type of superhuman skills required of a designer like Christy who is used to executing large-scale weddings and events for her south Georgia-based floral business. “This project came together in less than four weeks. We had to build it on-site in a very short period of time.”
Christy credits fellow Chapel Designer Lisa Thorne of Thorne & Thistles in Auburn, Alabama, for helping her with the conceptual design. “Lisa created the original outline for the wall. She drew this! Out of the goodness of her heart. No compensation. No credit. She just did it! And she also created the flower recipe,” Christy says. “Without being asked, Lisa just took the ball and ran. She spent so many hours working on this project . . . and thank goodness.”
[Note: This help was so essential to Christy because at the time, her home town had been hit by a fall hurricane and she was without electricity and certainly didn’t have access to the Internet.]
Christy’s husband Brian Hulsey, who has extensive carpentry and electrical training, lent hours of his construction talents, as well as financial support for supplies. “It’s amazing that we were able to make this happen,” she says.
The structure’s plywood base was constructed to look like a flag billowing in the wind. It was so large that once Brian finished, Christy had to rent a cargo van to transport it more than 500 miles to Miami. Erected on site, the base was stabilized with a pulley system attached to the back of the wall. Four buckets filled with 100-pound sandbags were hooked to the pulleys as counterweights.
Christy and her team went to work like Olympics sprinters to create the massive red-white-and-blue floral piece. They first mounted the Oasis floral tile system by screwing it to the plywood and then wrapped sheets of chicken wire over the top. Next, the designers inserted stems of flowers and foliage — thousands of them — to create the flag’s stars and stripes.
One hundred percent of the flowers and foliage was grown by Certified American Grown farms, including product contributed by Mellano & Company, Sun Valley Floral Farms, Ocean View Flowers, Holland America Flowers, Green Valley Floral, California Pajarosa and Eufloria.
It was a race against the clock as the deadline for finishing seemed to be ever-changing, Christy recalls. And despite having a clear vision for her design, Christy and her team had to make adjustments and adapt their plans in real time. As flowers arrived from the farms, the designers quickly decided how to employ the petal and leaf colors, textures and scale of each element. Finally, as the Convention Center staff was about to kick them out before the WFFSA Conference doors opened, the designers added the last stem to their creation.
“It was so beautiful, so pretty,” Christy recalls. “It was such a gift to honor the farms and the farmers. People had to walk by it and no matter what country you were from or what your politics were, you couldn’t miss it.”
The flower flag was indeed a family affair, Christy shares. “It was such a positive experience. I’m most proud that my favorite ‘Slow Flowers’ enthusiast, my 89-year-old grandmother Margie who inspires me to work from nature’s bounty, was also involved. Beyond baking mini pecan pies to be given to the farmers (yes, she was excited!), she hand-cut golden Raintree and her Pine-Cone Ginger lilies to be included in the flag’s design. She wanted the flower farmers to see what she grows. Her father was a farmer and she is, too, growing flowers for her own events and for our use at Colonial House.”[Note: Christy confided that she drove three hours each direction — in hurricane conditions — to pick up the Pine-Cone Ginger lilies from her grandmother. Amazing!]
As Christy points out, “It took a village to pull off something of this scale in such a small amount of time.”
The Colonial House of Flowers team included Amberley Odum, Sidney David, Chelsea Stackpole (all pictured above with Christy at the installation site in Miami).
Devon Drury, Amanda Currier (Christy’s sister), Cindy Tygart (her aunt), husband Brian and children Beatrice and Whitaker Hulsey all contributed, too. “Even my children forgave our weekends to nail and screw and collect — seriously!”
The Chapel Designers played an important role in supporting the American Floral Flag– from concept to completion. “I’m talking hours of time on phone calls, live videos and chats,” Christy says. “All of them! They answered questions and helped, especially Holly Chapple, Lisa Thorne, Ozzie Gromada Meza, Phyllis Jones, and Courtney Lambert.”
Heart, pride, talent and sacrifice — all to promote the renaissance of American-grown flowers. Congratulations Christy and your entire team of floral patriots!
Blue field: irises, delphiniums, bachelor’s buttons
White “stars”: Queen Anne’s Lace
Red stripes: roses, tulips, lilies, hypericum, ranunculus, glads, and pine cone-shaped ginger lilies grown by Christy’s grandmother
White stripes: roses, tulips, stock, alstroemeria
Foliage accents: ferns, eucalyptus
Christy Hulsey and I met at the 2014 Chapel Designers Conference where I was invited by Holly Chapple to talk about the Slow Flowers Movement and the renaissance of American-grown flowers.
An active Chapel Designer, Christy is humble about her many accomplishments. She runs Colonial House of Flowers, a very successful flower shop and wedding & event business in Georgia that has been around for fifty years. Through a total re-branding overhaul, Christy helped resurrect her beloved family business and has turned it into what it is today.
Colonial House of Flowers has been featured on many top wedding and design blogs, including numerous DIY and inspirational posts for Pottery Barn.
She is the 2017 Mayesh Design Star and will be teaching workshops around the country at various Mayesh branches, so check out the full calendar here.