Detroit Flower Week caters to thumbs of all colors

By: Tiffany Esshaki | C&G Newspapers | Published October 3, 2016

DETROIT — About a year ago, Flower House was in full bloom.

Lisa Waud, owner of Pot & Box floral design, launched a large-scale floral installation that brought leading florists from across the state together to fill an abandoned Detroit home from floor to ceiling with gorgeous fresh flowers.

But the experience, Waud says now, was something of a whirlwind.

“There was a great influx of visitors, and designers and volunteers came around to help with the project. It was magical; however, it’s a complete blur to me. We had to fill the house and we had a job to do, then we had to play hostesses,” she recalled.

In an effort to relive the floral fantasy she helped create a year ago that drew more than 3,000 global spectators, Waud decided to throw a reunion for those involved in Flower House. But, like she said, she doesn’t do anything small. That small, friendly reunion has ballooned into a full-fledged local celebration of all things growing with Detroit Flower Week Oct. 11-15.

“I thought, ‘We’ll have a lecturer or a workshop,’ and now we have 20 lecturers and workshops,” Waud said. “There’s certainly things for floral designers, and we’re bringing in some of the most innovative international floral designers. These are people really pushing the envelope in floral design now. But there are things for flower lovers and gardeners too. I’ve been trying to let people know there’s something for everyone.”

Programming for Detroit Flower Week will be based at the Jam Handy building, 2900 E. Grand Blvd. in Detroit, where guests can enjoy conversation and coffee each morning from Red Hook, and lunch from local food trucks each afternoon.

Workshops and lectures will cover a range of topics, like floral photography, design and macrame, and painting by famed muralist Louise “Ouizi” Chen.

Presenters include award-winning designers such as Ariella Chezar, Lewis Miller, Francoise Weeks and, of course, Waud, who will take participants through a step-by-step journey of how she brought Flower House to life.

Speaking of which, some might ask why the festivities won’t be taking place at the site of Flower House itself. Waud, who bought the abandoned property during a Hamtramck auction last year, said the structure is no more.

“The house is down, and they’re filling in the foundation, making way for a flower farm and design center,” Waud said. “I’ve always been a gardener, so I’m so happy to get back to having some land. It’s about three city lots.”

Waud plans to plant popular flower choices on her plot of dirt so her floral clients can choose from locally sourced flowers for their events.

“If a bride wants peonies, we can look right at what we’ve got available (in the garden),” she added.

The local flower movement, or “slow” flower movement, is akin to the “farm to table” food trend sweeping the country right now, and Waud hopes it will catch on in metro Detroit.

Local flowers will be the focus of Detroit Flower Week’s final event, a dinner called Floral Renaissance: A Revived Interest in the Classics. The evening will be produced by event planner Haley Lertola, owner of Detroit Cultivated, and will take place in Adam Strohm Hall at the Detroit Public Library Oct. 15.

“I like to incorporate sustainable practices into all of my events and put an educational component with each event, so we’re going to focus on the ‘slow’ flower movement, which is a new (trend) in the floral industry,” Lertola explained. “Something a lot of people don’t know is that 80 percent of flowers (purchased) in this country are sourced from overseas. There’s kind of an awakening about that and a realization that with a bit more effort and making connections in this industry, we can work on sourcing American-grown flowers.”

Tickets are currently on sale for the dinner and cost $175 per person. That includes five courses prepared by five chefs from local favorites Katoi, Zingerman’s Cornman Farms, Lady of the House, Rock City Eatery and Sweet Heather Anne, all paired with beverages.

Guests will dine and learn under a massive fresh flower installation created by Joseph Massie, who is regarded as one of Europe’s top botanical and floral artists.

“The flower installation will be open to the public Friday into Saturday, before we utilize this beautiful room for our dinner,” Lertola said.

To learn more about Detroit Flower Week or to purchase tickets for events, including the Floral Renaissance dinner, visit Detroit FlowerWeek.info.