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Slow Flowers Botanical Couture comes to Florida; All images (c) Danielle Werner

The beauty and inspiration of our American Flowers Week wearable fashions continues with a stop in Seville, Florida, on the grounds of FernTrust, one of the country’s largest sources for U.S.-grown ferns, fronds and foliage. Founded in 1986 as a cooperative of family fern farms sharing a rich history in agribusiness, FernTrust grow the highest quality foliage available.

Eileen Tongson is an urban farmer-florist in Orlando and owner of FarmGal Flowers. She partnered with FernTrust to create this lush, contemporary, all-Florida look for American Flowers Week.

Ferns elevated to high fashion

“My starting point for the design was a visit to FernTrust, where I was able to see up close all the foliage they grow,” Eileen says. “All of the shades of green, not to mention the textures and shapes of foliage, were so inspiring! Many people still do not know that Central Florida is the cut foliage capital of the world. I wanted to create a design that highlights this amazing botanical product and encourage other designers to use it as more than just foliage in their floral arrangement

Isabel Tongson models a glamorous fern gown in the historic orange grove.

Eileen’s botanical gown and the fern-farm location are thoroughly integrated. “We want you to look at our story and immediately know its setting — the real, natural Florida,” she says. “We were so fortunate that the most perfect oranges were still on the trees at FernTrust. Spanish moss was moving in the breeze. There were also majestic oak trees overhead and countless varieties of ferns below. What a dreamy, magical place!”

We asked Eileen to share more about how she constructed the gown, modeled so perfectly by Isabel Tongson, her daugher.

“The base material is ‘poultry netting,’ aka Oasis floral netting. The floral netting was cut and shaped into two pieces — the ‘skirt’ of the gown and the ‘top’ of the gown. Ends were attached with zip ties. The top of each piece was left loose and then tightened with zip ties after our model stepped into it. The floral netting was covered with plastic wrap; then, I attached the foliage with cold glue.”

The textures and patterns are gorgeous!

Eileen allowed the shapes, textures and forms of each type of foliage to inspire the surface pattern. For instance, she says, “the long Calathea and large Monstera leaves looke best applied verticall on the skirt — elongating the design.”

Fern headpiece to complete the look

Foliage selection includes: Monstera, Calathea Louie, Calathea Blue, Feather Fern, Plumosus, Fatsia, Ming, Leatherleaf Fern and Victoria’s Lace Fern. See all of these varieties in FernTrust’s gallery.

“Many thanks to Jana Register and the team at FernTrust for providing me with foliage to practice and create samples prior to the actual gown production,” Eileen says. “That allowed me to determine how the leaves would look best and which would hold up longest for the photo shoot.”

Design team! From left, photographer Danielle Werner, Jana Register of FernTrust, model Isabel Tongson, farmer-florist Eileen Tongson and hair artist Katrina Elbo.

Creative Credits:

Designer: Eileen Tongson, FarmGal Flowers, Orlando, Florida, farmgalflowers.com, @farmgalflowers
Foliage: Jana Register, FernTrust, Seville, Florida, ferntrust.com, @ferntrustinc
Venue: FernTrust
Model: Isabel Tongson, @isabel.tongson
Hair: Katrina Elbo, J. Bauman Salon, shearkatrina.com, @shearkatrina
Makeup: Miki Walker, Make Me Up Miki, makemeupmiki.com, @mikilanii
Photography: Danielle Werner, Live Wonderful Photography, livewonderful.com, @livewonderful_