Jennifer Designs botanical couture
(c) Haley Richter

A new take on botanical couture celebrates creativity and local flowers

            Floral designer and artist Jennifer Reed of Jennifer Designs has produced flowers for hundreds of weddings and events around the greater Philadelphia region. She is a popular featured florist at the PHS Philadelphia Flower Show and leads design workshops in her Mullica Hill, New Jersey-based studio. When a spark of inspiration prompted her to create and style a botanical couture piece for the 2021 American Flowers Week collection, Jennifer knew she wanted to design a look she hadn’t seen in earlier years.

Tulip botanical couture

            Her muse for this project: Corey Radar, a friend and floral designer himself, who occasionally freelances for Jennifer Designs. “What don’t I see in previous floral fashions?” Jennifer asked herself. The idea took root last year, at the 2020 Philadelphia Flower Show, when Jennifer designed a floral bikini for a model. “Corey is a fabulous designer himself and he helps me occasionally. We’ve worked on some fun projects. He admired my bikini and jokingly asked me to make one for him because he likes to dress in drag for fun.”
            She recalled their conversation later when a local floral event hosted a drag performer. “That just sparked something and I started sketching dresses for Corey,” she recalls.

garden accessories and details

            But Jennifer didn’t want to create a traditional drag look. “I wanted to showcase a gardener — A Drag Queen Gardener,” she laughs. It wasn’t hard to sell the idea to Corey. “Because he is an avid plantsman who treats his plants like babies,” Jennifer says.
            Things fell into place for a springtime photo shoot incorporating all locally-grown flowers and plants from area nurseries. Jennifer gave Corey a white men’s dress shirt, tied at the waist à la Diane Keaton. She designed a classic, 1950s-inspired skirt popularized by the Christian Dior “it” silhouette — fitted at the waist and falling into a full circle at the hem. Clad by hundreds of tulips, daffodils, hellebores, grape hyacinths, hyacinths, pansies, and bougainvillea blooms, the garment recalls a beautiful floral print.

I wanted the arrangement to look natural, like a flower garden.

jennifer reed, jennifer designs

            The skirt itself was a feat of engineering, Jennifer explains. Its hoop skirt base is the type often worn under a ball gown or prom dress and made from metal hoops and tulle netting. Midway through the production, the netting began to tear, so Jennifer’s 10-year-old daughter, who had been taking sewing lessons, jumped in and stitched bands of ribbon to anchor it back together. “I also made a harness of suspenders to distribute the weight so Corey could wear the heavy skirt more comfortably,” Jennifer explains. “He was also wearing five-inch heels!”

the design team

            Working with her team members, she wired the spring blooms to the hoop skirt. “I wanted the arrangement to look natural, like a flower garden,” she explains. “Sometimes you have a single bloom; sometimes you have three flowers blooming together. We started with the first layer and then added a layer of moss to cover any mechanics or gaps before continuing to the next layer. That extra step paid off in the end because the moss made everything look fluffy. The eye-pleasing palette begins with white, buttery yellow and pale green blooms placed near the waist of the skirt. The petal hues continue to orange and coral and end with shell and darker pink flowers dangling at the hem like a floral fringe.
            The styling, including the jade green heels and a dazzling manicure, adds a good dose of camp. The “pearls” hanging around Corey’s neck and earlobes are made from strands of white hyacinth pips. Jennifer added vampy, oversized teal eyewear frames, and also tapped Jessica Saint, a hair and makeup artist who works in theater, to provide the flowing blonde wig and transform Corey’s likeness into a ‘lady gardener’ of the 1950s.
            Props include items one might expect to see in the pages of a vintage women’s magazine: a flower basket, a straw hat, fancy tools, a watering can, gardening books, house plants, and more. “We have her doing a whole study of her plants,” Jennifer jokes. “And many of those come from Corey’s own plant collection.”
            The creative experience was both a lot of fun and personally rewarding, she adds. “There was a point when all of a sudden, I started tearing up. It was so moving to see an idea we put all our energy toward materialize into something beautiful.”
            Corey named the character “Tammy Tulips,” and he later suggested showing up as the Drag Queen Gardener at Jennifer’s 2021 Philadelphia Flower & Garden Show display in early June. But Jennifer says Corey will have to wait. “I have a wedding the same week, too, and I need him to work on that wedding with me!”

Creative Team:
Floral Palette: Spring bulb flowers and bougainvillea
Concept/Floral Design: Jennifer Reed, Jennifer Designs,,  @Jenniferdesignsevents
Collaborating Farm: Jig-Bee Flower Farm, Kensington, Pennsylvania,, @jig_bee
Bougainvillea Plants: Platt’s Farm Market, Clarksboro, New Jersey, @plattsfarmmarket
Hair/Makeup: Jessica Saint Beauty,, @jessicasaintbeauty
Model: Corey Radar, @coreyradar
Photographer: Haley Richter,, @haleyrichterphoto
Venue:  660 Collective, Norristown, Pennsylvania,, @660_collective
Garden Accessories: Terrain,, @shopterrain