A pop-up Persian garden and floral fantasies — the Garden Club of Honolulu’s Major Flower & Horticulture Show — materialized as if by magic in the Honolulu Museum of Art over the weekend, after which it vanished, leaving only traces of fragrance and dreams.
The show’s theme was Shangri La, and its genies were garden club members in blue aprons who were busy setting up Wednesday. Like the blossoming of a rare flower, the event takes place only once every three years.
For the first time, the Honolulu garden show took its inspiration from a concurrent museum exhibition, "Doris Duke’s Shangri La: Architecture, Landscape and Islamic Art." Blue openwork screens and lanterns from Duke’s Black Point estate decorated the garden show’s horticultural exhibit.
In their entries to the competition, garden club members were free to interpret Persian, Hawaiian and their own ideas of paradise: "What Shangri La is to each of us, our own little Eden," said Lisa Cavanah, horticulture chairwoman.
"Our word ‘paradise’ comes from the Persian word ‘pairidaeza,’ which means a walled garden, a sanctuary in a harsh desert clime," said Lizzy Lowrey, who worked with fellow garden club member Leslie Almeida to transform the museum’s Mediterranean Courtyard into an authentic Persian garden of geometric design.
The essential elements of shade, water, food and fragrance were provided by cypress, puakenikeni, avocado and yellow ohia lehua trees, and four raised beds containing sedge, moa, sweet potato, lavender, purple-flowering pohinahina and white-flowering Wrightia religiosa, bracketing a fountain. They redecorated the fountain rim with "trompe l’oeil" tiles depicting grapes and pomegranate flowers. The tiles were stickers printed with a photograph of a Persian tile that Lowrey took at the Gulbenkian Museum in Lisbon, Portugal.
The show’s divisions included floral arrangements, living plants in pots and terrariums, botanical jewelry and woven or embroidered textiles.
The "Waterfall" category included a white phalaenopsis orchid with green carnation "grass" by Janice Lau Fergus, floral design chairwoman. A sunny "Radiance" interpretation by Judy Harrold showcased golden chrysocephalum, pale yellow kalanchoe, sea holly, agapanthus and California buckwheat.
"Glory" crowns in the jewelry class were made with materials such as hala and flax, Job’s tears, poha berries and garbanzo beans, and painted to resemble gold and precious jewels.
The takeaway from this splendid show: Of all the rich legacies of Persia — carpets, jewels, paintings, palaces — the most precious may be gardens.