There's no better celebration of any season than the decorated tree adorned with the rich symbolism of nature—my ritual to inform and inspire you in the journey called life.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

trees in the abbey

WHEN SEEING the "avenue of trees" in Westminster Abbey for the royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton this past Friday morning, I smiled about the significance of this in signaling a new era. I also immediately thought of the influence of The Prince of Wales' book I read recently entitled Harmony with the subtitle, A New Way of Looking at Our World, may have had on the wedding. Prince Charles's book is a scholarly work that fuses the disciplines of sacred geometry in architecture with science and technology of today within every realm of our lives, in which he makes a very conclusive call-to-action: "We stand at an historic moment, we face a future where there is a real prospect that if we fail the earth, we fail humanity. To avoid such an outcome, which will comprehensively destroy our children's future or even our own, we must make choices now that carry monumental implications." From the inside flap of the book jacket: "The book examines how mankind has abandoned its ancient balance with Nature and how rediscovering that balance is the key to solving our most devastating environmental issues." It goes on to say, " Harmony exposes the patterns of the natural world, which for centuries were woven into the fabric of human life, have been lost in the modern age." 

PRINCE CHARLES delves deeply, forcefully—dare I say bravely—into these inter-connected subjects and has created a most thoughtful clarion call for humanity to change back to a more sustainable and regenerative way of living. He suggests that it isn't impossible—but in fact, imperative—to get back to a more natural way of living, from the spaces we build to live and work to the ways we grow and farm our food.

Photograph ©Reuters/Sang Tan
IN KEEPING with this mode of thinking, according to a UK Press Association article, Florist Shane Connolly, the artistic director of flowers for the royal wedding, said he chose the trees to reflect the "medieval ethos" of Westminster Abbey. "These wonderful curved ceilings are supposed to reflect the branches of trees and that was when I thought of having trees in the abbey," he said. I have to wonder if he had also read Charles's book. The Gothic ribbed vaulting of the church certainly echoes the limbs of a tree canopy, although at a much grander scale than the trees, which form a canopy at a more pedestrian level.
Photograph ©Murray Sanders
FOR THE WEDDING, the aisle of Westminster Abbey leading to the altar was lined with six English field maples  (Acer campestre) and two Hornbeam trees  (Carpinus betulus) which were all around 20-25 feet tall. The trees were the most breathtakingly prominent feature of the floral displays focused on growing, rather than cut plants.
As for the significance of these particular types of trees, the English field maple (the only maple native to Britain) symbolizes humility and reserve (and was used to make loving cups in medieval times). And the hornbeam signifies strength and resilience because its wood is very hard and durable. 
Henry VII vault detail (

THE SEASONAL flowers shrubs and trees in hues of green and white for the wedding decor were mainly sourced from royal estates. It was suggested by the bride-to-be that it had to be British, seasonal and as organic and sustainable as possible. The plan for the trees after being on display in the church for the public until May 6th is for them to be planted at Highgrove, Charles's residence in western England. Other plants and such were to be donated to charity and planted elsewhere.
THE ROYAL FAMILY has been much-derided for the the lives they lead, but they are all in a singularly unique position to be ambassadors for a better world. Their lives, although cushioned with the riches that come with royalty, are not their own really. They live under extreme public scrutiny and really have no power except for the freedom to be somewhat unencumbered from politics-as-usual simply because of their standing as a royal family. I think this is what allowed Charles a strongly pro-earth perspective for the aforementioned book. In the book, he didn't mince words when outlining what needs to change.
IT WAS REFRESHING to see the simple beauty of trees magically forming an intimate human-sized canopy in Westminster Abbey for the royal wedding. I wish Prince William and his newly titled Duchess of Cambridge all the best in becoming shining examples of humility and honor in their richly decorated lives. Their beautiful and understated wedding (as these affairs go when the whole world is watching) has certainly given a strong signal that this might very well be the case.

CROWN JEWELS | (Top) These crown and cross ornaments have been a part of my collection for a number of years—so-long so, I don't recall where I purchased them. The crown, much unlike the real crown jewels, is made of pressed tin and accented with a faux pearl at the top. The Celtic cross ornament is quite royally embellished with colored glass stones and metallic zari thread. The ornaments are flanked with what I believe to be hornbeam and maple leaves (not of the provenance used in the wedding), but nevertheless to represent the trees that so breathtakingly lined the aisle of the abbey. 

TREES INSIDE | (2nd and 3rd from top) Workmen carry one of the English field maples into Westminster Abbey in preparation for the wedding. The photograph is copyrighted by REUTERS/photographed by Sang Tan. The vaulted ceiling in part of the abbey is quite reflective of the canopy of trees (photo from 

PRETTY PROCESSION | (4th from top) Kate Middleton and her father proceed through the "Avenue of Trees" placed inside Westminster Abbey for the ceremony, followed by her Maid of Honor (her sister Pippa Middleton) and the rest of the wedding party. The photo is copyrighted by Murray Sanders.

OAK CROWN | (Above, bottom) This oak wreath ornament is part of the "Illusions of Grandeur" collection by Wendy Addison for Seasons of Canon Falls/Midwest CBK is contrasted with real oak leaves. Kate Middleton's diamond tiara for the wedding was quite understated (for a royal tiara). The 1936 Cartier "halo" tiara was purchased by The Duke of York (King George VI) for his Duchess (The Queen Mother). Queen Elizabeth received the tiara from her mother on her 18th birthday. The earrings Kate wore were a gift from the Middleton family and made to match the tiara, who's new coat-of-arms includes acorns and oak leaves.

TREE SETUP | (Below): A video of the trees and other plants being delivered.

Collecting and styling by Darryl Moland
Wedding photographs are ©Rueters/Sang Tan (tree in the doorway) 
and ©Murray Sanders (avenue of trees procession)

Sunday, April 24, 2011

easter tableau

EASTER has always been associated with sweet spring pastel confections. I wanted to create a somewhat non-traditional scene that evoked that sweet memory of Easter. When I was a kid, I liked nothing better than waking up to a cellophane-wrapped Easter basket filled with all sorts of candy and toys. There's something about peering through cellophane that is much like peering into the window of a candy store. No wonder so many foods are packaged this way.

THIS YEAR'S TREE started by making crushed velvet bird ornaments with my friend Devin and took several last-minute turns to become an entire table-scape—including the crepe paper garland-wrapped trees that look for-all-the-world like fancy cakes swarmed with butterflies, dragonflies and whirlygig flowers—all trimmed with pastel-colored "candy" eggs. The place settings were pieced together from the random collection of china and tableware I have collected over the years. Strict formality is not my style, but I do like a pleasing palette along with whimsical touches such as cups with egg-shaped saucers and a "chicken foot" egg cup.

SPRING DAYS are longer and the sun is brighter making the pastel riot of flowers like roses, azaleas and tulips all-the-more appealing. All sorts of flowering trees reintroduce themselves each spring all over again. Here in the American South, the early arrival of spring has been especially vibrant because the nights have stayed somewhat cool and there has been plenty of rain along with the sunshine. The pale pink roses seen floating in glass orbs are from the a pale pink climbing rose my mother had in her yard. I took countless spring bouquets of flowers to her from this bush—the only plant I have transplanted from my childhood home. It has grown quite large as a potted rose and promises dozens of blushing-pink blooms this year.

THE SACCHARINE SWEET sanctity of the season is a celebration of spring's fertility and rebirth no matter whether it represents a resurrection or just a new beginning. It's all good when the days are warm and there is new life in evidence everywhere. Please pass me the marzipan eggs—I'll certainly toast to that!

CONICAL CONFECTIONS | (Top) I wrapped this trinity of paperboard cones with crepe paper garland from the former Backporch Friends (Cody Foster and Co.) with hot-glued wooden butterflies, dragonflies and whirlygig flowers attached to them (butterflies and dragonflies from the defunct Martha Stewart Catalog, flowers from a local antique store). I trimmed them with glittered pastel styrofoam eggs pulled from a small wreath sold this season at Target. The trees were inspired by my online stylist friend Elizabeth Demos and her use of crepe paper garland here. The three glass orbs are a past purchase from Pottery Barn and are filled with the pale pink roses snipped from my mother's old-fashioned climbing rose bush I have transplanted to Atlanta from my childhood home.

SWEET TABLEAU | (2nd from top) Using his stainless steel table, this tableau was photographed at Devin's condominium in Atlanta. Everything looked great against the mottled gray neutral of the concrete walls. The teal fiberglass school chairs were found at a thrift store in Birmingham, Alabama many years ago. The "chicken foot" egg cup is from  BIA Cordon Bleu, Inc. in Galt, California and available here. Read "Place at the Table" below for more descriptions.

BLUE VELVET | (3rd from top) These birds were made from the velvet bird kit from the defunct Martha Stewart catalog by using rubber stamps and an iron to emboss velvet backed by interfacing and gluing two sides together. Sewing a seed bead on for the eye was the finishing touch. Some scraps of robin's-egg-blue velvet were used aside from the colors that came with the kit.

PLACE AT THE TABLE | (4th from top) The place setting consisted of a charger by Isaac Mizrahi for Target, a dinner plate in the "Sculpted" pattern by Calvin Klein, egg-shaped saucers and cups with an exterior matte glaze from the Nigella Lawson collection. The ceramic tea pot/cup was designed by Michael Graves for Target. The gold and teal-striped glasses are vintage items found at an antique store. The cake pedestal and is Martha Stewart Collection at Macys. Candleholders are Martha Stewart Everyday from Kmart. Flatware is casually placed in these photos and the pattern is "Treble Clef" by Gourmet Settings.The curled unfinished handle ends resemble the unfurling frond of a fiddlehead fern has always been one of my favorite stainless patterns because of it's handmade appeal.

SWEET ENDING | (Above, bottom and left) Marzipan Easter eggs are from Biermann Marzipan in Hawthorne, New Jersey. Pastel shot glasses are from Devin's private collection. The beautiful antique Westmoreland "robin on nest" candy dish is a cherished gift from my friend Julia Carpenter from her mother's collection.

Collecting and styling by Darryl Moland