Art in Bloom at the Museum of Fine Arts drew several thousand visitors this year, and supporters of the St. Petersburg museum and its Stuart Society had an additional treat at "Fiesta de las Flores," the luncheon featuring floral designer Ron Morgan.
A wit as well as a creative force, Morgan entertained guests at the St. Petersburg Yacht Club as he arranged spectacular bouquets that mixed produce such as eggplant, artichokes and kale with blossoms and greenery.
Morgan prefers monochromatic table- scapes.
"I never mix colors," he said. "It takes a genius to mix flowers, and I'm not there yet."
Some of his fans strongly disagree about the genius part.
The plant materials, shipped from California and housed overnight by Cassie Osterloth at Carter's Florist, were spectacular and unavailable to many mortals, but Morgan offered practical suggestions: He mixes tiny amounts of chlorine bleach with the water for his tablescapes, helping to fight bacterial development, a bane of floral design. And he uses a turkey baster to remove stale water from arrangements and add fresh. That limits spillage onto fine furniture, he said.
Co-hosts for the luncheon were Patricia Campbell and Joty Puckett, with help from committee members Jill McGrath, Signe Oberhofer and Gail Pyhel.
People at the luncheon were still talking about "Fiesta de la Noche," the March 13 preview party held in the Marly Room and gardens at the museum. Redman Steele Floral Design Studio, a presenting sponsor of Art in Bloom, created paper blossoms to complement the natural designs for the buffet dinner, which featured tapas-style treats.
Lynn Cox and Kally Harvard co-chaired the preview party committee, which included Mary Lou DeVoe, Susan Harvard, Gail Phares, Carol Piper, Iris Salzer and Louise Weaver.
Dale Wybrow, an accomplished designer herself, was overall chair for Art in Bloom, and Jeanne Houlton and Sally Wheeler supervised the floral installations. Chris Chapman Hilton is the current president of the Stuart Society, a presenting sponsor with Big "C" Steel and Harvard Jolly architects. Kally Harvard's painting Floreciente was used on the invitations and event covers, then auctioned.
By now you know that Mark T. Mahaffey is the 2010 Mr. Sun and Whitney Wilkerson is the 2010 Sungoddess, honors conferred by the Suncoasters, who produce the annual Festival of States in St. Petersburg.
The Coronation Ball moved to the Renaissance Vinoy Resort this year, with master of ceremonies Dick Crippen, a special adviser to the Tampa Bay Rays, remembering the late Betsy Owens, longtime organizer of the event.
Co-chairs Catherine McGarry, Maggi McQueen, Sally Poynter and Candy Scherer, helped by Paula Popovich, Chris Sabo and Jill Williams, planned the evening this year.
Suncoasters executive director Rick McCollum, president David Punzak and Mayor Bill Foster were in the dinner crowd of about 300.
The festival continues Thursday evening with Familyfest and the Illuminated Night Parade.