Society / The Seen

Famous Royal Florist Gives an Enlightening Presentation at the Dallas Museum of Art League’s Biggest Fundraiser

Shane Connolly Imparts His Floral Wisdom (and Occasional Monarchy Tidbits) at Art in Bloom

BY // 03.04.20
photography WJNPHOTO

Yellow — the official color of sunshine, freshness, and happiness — was seen in all its vibrant shades at the Dallas Museum of Art. A gorgeous group of ladies (with just a few lucky men — a ratio I adore) had assembled to celebrate Art in Bloom: A Royal Affair. This annual event, now in its 21st incarnation, is graciously put on by the DMA’s League and is the centerpiece of the group’s fundraising activities.

The League is celebrating 81 years of commitment through countless hours of volunteer support for the Museum as well as contributions towards art acquisitions and important endowment funds. League president, Dyann Skelton, and Art in Bloom chair, Therese Rourk, took the stage in the Horchow Auditorium to welcome the elegant guests assembled (read lots of chic girl-on-the-go boucle suits and fabulous floral day-dresses). The two must have decided that yellow would be their signature color as they both chose stunning canary floral Lela Rose dresses.

They had the honor of introducing this year’s featured speaker, Shane Connolly. Annually, this event brings in a noted floral designer or entertaining guru to inspire guests. Connolly’s quirky,  and far from pretentious style was a hit with the ladies who held onto his every word. (It didn’t hurt that they were all delivered in a delicious British accent and made occasional reference to the monarchy.)

One of his Connolly’s first royal moments came when HRH the Duchess of Cornwall (you know, Camilla Parker Bowles) asked him to design her bouquet and all of the varied florals for her marriage to HRH the Prince of Wales (you know,  Charles) in 2005. Then, perhaps the jewel in his personal crown was being awarded a second Royal Warrant of Appointment in 2011. That was for the wedding of Kate and William. As the artistic director, he was the man behind the creations that were seen around the world.

His much-ballyhooed parties mirror that international exposure and Harpers & Queen magazine has called his client list “enviable,” but his discretion has been legendary. However, I did hear from a few friends in attendance at the Saturday prior’s Art in Bloom patron party that he had shared some “tea” regarding his thoughts on the other recent royal wedding.

Shane Connolly 4 @eva_nemeth
Shane Connolly, a florist to the royal family, is known for his whimsical, elegant arrangements, as well as a fabulous personality. (Photo by Eva Nemeth)

But, I digress. Back to his enlightening presentation. One of his PowerPoint slides was of an entry gate he had created for one of the royal palaces. That image also, unfortunately, caught what he deliciously shared was a “woman simultaneously attempting to curtsy and kiss the Duchess of Cambridge on the cheek.” Apparently, neither was done well.

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Despite my lack of floral arranging prowess — my attempts always look as if a serial killer has been at work — I jotted down quite a few of Connolly’s tips. First off, he shared that one needed a myriad of vases to achieve true floral whimsy and elegance. If one only has a few to choose from, he compared it to “only having four pairs of jeans in your wardrobe and then wondering what to wear to a wedding.” I immediately ordered a flower brick, which he worked with on stage and likened to the “floral equivalent of painting by numbers.”

I was pleased to see that so many in the room were intrigued by his thoughts on sustainability. He shared of the horrible destruction done to our environment by items that we rarely consider, such as floral foam. His advice on creating structure in an arrangement is to use nature. Simply bundle twigs together to create a foundation upon which to layer greenery and other colorful items from your garden.

“Gardeners make things flourish,” Connolly said. “We [floral designers] are the morticians who make things look good for the viewing.”

Others who wanted part of the Royal Affair were Art in Bloom honorary chair, Amy Warren; my dear friend and table partner, Melinda Knowles (who also had gotten the color du jour memo and came in a yellow Escada sheath dress with a slender gold bowed belt); the Dallas Museum of Art director Dr. Agustín Arteaga and his husband, Carlos Gonzalez-JaimeLou Martin, Debbie ReynoldsEmpress Gilbert, who along with her son, Micah Gilbert, own Empressive Earth Gallery which was the speaker sponsor of Art in Bloom; Mary McDermott Cook; Shelly Dee; Gowri Sharma; Nancy ShuttBeverly Freeman; and Barbara Daseke.

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