Heard of the Devon Horse Show? If you’re from the Philadelphia area, you have! It’s been around since 1896, when it began as a way for the newly migrated wealthy business men of the Main Line to discuss the need of better horses for their vehicles. In 1919, it was decided a Country Fair should be held in conjunction with the horse show, and that the event should benefit Bryn Mawr Hospital. Women were gaining their rights all over the country and with the Country Fair, they proved their strength and organizational skills with a successful fundraiser that to date has raised almost 14 million dollars!
To this day, the Devon Horse show still raises money for Bryn Mawr Hospital, and one of the Country Fair Special Events that contributes to that donation is the Ladies Day event, where elegant ladies don their best hats to compete for Best of Devon, Most Fascinating, Best Hat to Toe, and Best in Show. This year’s theme was “Ribbons and Pearls,” and was held on May 28th.
In addition to all the voluminous chapeaus, the Ladies Day event features floral centerpieces donated by area floral designers such as VF Flowers, Beautiful Blooms, Robertsons, Cottage Flowers, Fleur, and…Roots to Blooms! (That’s me.) Our centerpieces would be displayed in the preferred seating tent with a luncheon included, and then moved to the blue room where the box holders have dinner.
I was contacted by the lovely and energetic Karen Meehan to be a part of this event, and was thrilled to participate in the hat box challenge. Here were a few of the other hat box designs:
I chose to visit my local Peony grower, Eleanor Tickner, for the bulk of my floral material, as it is peak peony season and not only was this a cost effective choice, but an eco-friendly one as well. You just show up with a bucket and get your stems ($1.50/stem and up.) Everything is in full swing right now at A Peony Garden in Glen Mills, and with the help of Eleanor’s daughter Butch, I was able to cut many varieties including Red Charm, Raspberry Charm, Battle Flag, Coral Charm, Do Tell, and Festiva Maxima, to name a few. The peonies are well grown, well loved, and enchanting to say the least!
First, I lined the hat box (bought from Amazon) with plastic, added a thicker plastic liner, and yes, I had to use floral foam for this. There was no way around it. After doweling together my foam, which rose three to four inches higher than the lip of the box, I added the base foliage of dusty miller and variegated pittosporum… and then I just kept adding peonies. It was a delicious experience to work with so many peonies (the white peony edged with pinky/red ‘Festiva Maxima’ has the most wonderful fragrance!) I added filler such as nigella, blue cornflower, Queen Anne’s lace, some spray rose and a few fronds of maidenhair fern. I tucked a few black feathers in for accent, as well as some lacey hat netting and some black bows and a few pearl thingamabobs.
All in all, I was pleased with the result and think I will definitely do more hat box designing in the future! I couldn’t have done it without my trusty assistant Julie, and wouldn’t have been included if it hadn’t been for Karen. Thanks, you guys! I hope to participate next year. It was so much fun, and all for a good cause! Three cheers for Ladies Hat Day.
The Devon Horse Show and Country fair will continue throughout the rest of the weekend and there are lots of cool exhibitions and vendors to check out.