Making arrangements

World’s top floral designers to show their work in Boston

The World Association of Flower Arrangers show will feature 630 entries and displays by floral artists from 30 countries. The World Association of Flower Arrangers show will feature 630 entries and displays by floral artists from 30 countries.
By Carol Stocker
Globe Correspondent / June 11, 2011

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The biggest floral event ever held in Boston will open next week when the World Association of Flower Arrangers holds its 10th International Flower Show at the Seaport World Trade Center.

This is the first time the 230,000-member group has held the show in the United States. The event, which takes place from June 15-19, will feature 630 entries and displays by top floral artists from 30 countries.

The show is usually held every three years, but the 2008 show, scheduled for Pakistan, was canceled in the wake of the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. The previous WAFA show was held in Japan six years ago.

The talent lineup is stellar and includes work by Gregor Lersch of Germany, one of the most influential floral designers in the world.

“He was one of the people who started using cages and constructions,’’ said WAFA president Ruth Crocker of Cambridge. “But his arrangements are also natural and loose and airy.’’

Lersch will be one of five master designers who will create immense flower arrangements involving 20-foot rods and props descending from the ceiling at the final event, “European Fusion in Flowers,’’ at the Citi Performing Arts Center Wang Theatre on June 19.

In addition to the Trade Center displays, several other WAFA events around the city will spotlight the top designers.

On June 18, “America’s Firsts’’ will be held at the Seaport Hotel Ballroom across the street from the main exhibit. Participating designers were given a choice of themes. Local star Julie Lapham of Southborough chose to interpret that famous American invention, barbed wire. Other designers will erect floral skyscrapers, celebrate Levi Strauss blue jeans, and Ben Franklin’s spectacles.

Designer Tony Todesco of One Main Street Studio in Stow and a master flower show judge will interpret the Panama Canal.

“American floral design is very different than European design,’’ Todesco said in a phone interview. “Each country has its own style. The Japanese are minimalist. The Italians are contemporary. The Russians are bold. The French are restrained. Traditional English flower arranging is so loose they say butterflies can fly through it.

“In the US we’re restrained. We say, When in doubt, leave it out. South American designers are flamboyant, using everything but the kitchen sink. There’s a saying: When the arrangement looks thin, shove things in.’’

The United States is unique because it has two different garden club organizations running most flower show competitions, The Garden Club of America and The National Garden, each with thousands of members. This apparently stymied WAFA, which is used to dealing with a single organization in each member country. It reportedly asked the two groups to merge, which they politely declined to do. But they created an umbrella group, making this WAFA show in Boston the largest project that members of the occasionally rival groups have ever cooperated on.

Members of the MFA Associates, which stages Art in Bloom, have also pitched in. Lucinda Larson of Milton, who has already donated 100 hours as chairwoman of one of the sold-out demonstrations, says it really is a major undertaking. “There are days I ask myself, Why did I agree to this?’’ she said. “But then, I think: It really is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.’’

Tickets for the WAFA event at the Seaport World Trade Center are $30. Other events are ticketed separately. For details and information, including the June 15 preview party, visit