Dressed in all white florals, a model looks like an ancient sculpture

Design by Jennifer Reed, Jennifer Designs Events
Mullica Hill, New Jersey
Photography by Haley Richter, @haleyrichterphoto

The Romance of Peonies by Jennifer Reed, Jennifer Designs Events

A long-forgotten historic garden ignited Jennifer Reed’s imagination for her contribution to this year’s American Flowers Week collection. Owner of Jennifer Designs Events, based in Mullica Hill, New Jersey, the floral artist says the Crowninshield Garden at Hagley Museum in Wilmington, Delaware, inspired her.

I envisioned a sculptural and statuesque botanical couture design to emulate
the feel of the 1920s neoclassical garden.

Designer Jennifer Reed
Hagley Garden Wilmington, Delaware

“I drew from the story of this garden’s original owner, Louise Evelina du Pont Crowninshield, an American heiress, historic preservationist, and philanthropist. Louisa was influenced by her travels to Rome, and she established her garden with replicas of the architectural features she saw there.”

Conceptual design by Jennifer Reed of Jennifer Designs Events
Jennifer’s “storyboard” submitted for the Botanical Couture Collection

Created as an intentional “ruin,” the garden includes cascading layers of Italianate pools, columns, statuary, and colonnades, built in the early 20th century, but crafted to appear weathered by time. Through local horticulture contacts, Jennifer received permission to photograph her botanical look here, even though the gardens are still being restored and not open to the public. “I thought this was the perfect location for my wearable floral creation, worn by a model who looked like an ancient sculpture dressed in all-white florals,” she said. “We painted her hair and body to match the white flowers, creating the illusion of a statue.”

Jennifer Reed's peony design for American Flowers Week 2023
Jennifer Reed’s peony design for American Flowers Week 2023
Peony dress by Jennifer Reed
Peony Couture (left); floral artist Jennifer Reed (right)

Using 330 stems of  ‘Bowl of Cream’ and ‘Gardenia’ peonies and 40 stems of sweet peas, all grown by Owlet Farms of Pilesgrove, New Jersey, Jennifer fashioned her garment to emulate the fluid drape of a silk gown. Other ingredients included pepper cress, larkspur, snapdragons, delphiniums, dusty miller, and ornamental wheat, all of which added textural details to the monochromatic white palette.

Due to the garden’s hills and multiple levels, this floral look had to be more than pretty, she added. “I’ve learned that if you want a model to walk in a floral garment, it needs to be comfortable. This dress is actually made with four different panels, and each is attached to a belt at the waist. When we moved locations, there were four of us who walked with Brooke, our model, by holding onto the panels.”

Sections of lightweight plastic mesh form each of the skirt sections, “flowered” by Jennifer and a design assistant. They inserted hundreds of peonies into small openings in the mesh material, taping individual stems in place on the back side of the skirt panels. Larkspur covers a contrasting section in the skirt, creating the look of lace, while a braided cord crosses the model’s bare back adding feminine detailing. Jennifer made a separate peony-and-sweet-pea shawl to wrap around the shoulders, and attached peonies and sweet peas to a metal headband for the model’s crown.

Peony details and peony gown by Jennifer Reed
Peony details and peony gown by Jennifer Reed

Jennifer and photographer Haley Richter posed their peony model in many places throughout the extensive landscape to reflect its unique architectural vignettes and destinations. Their visual story honors the alluring garden’s original owner, an heiress to the duPont fortune. Shannon Wellington brought the faux ruins to life, creating table laden with flowers, candles, and platters of food. “She styled it in the spirit of a roaring twenties party that might have originally taken place here,” Jennifer said.

These images, photographed at an iconic American garden, narrate the best of American Flowers Week. The story is told via a classical garment that celebrates quintessential American-grown peonies, designed and made by a gifted floral artist.
Jennifer Reed, Jennifer Designs Events@jenniferdesignsevents
Owlet Farms, Pilesgrove, New Jersey, @owletfarms
CamFlor Inc., Watsonville, California, @camflorinc
Muth Family Farm, Williamstown, New Jersey, @muthfamilyfarm
MODEL: Brooke G. @brookeitlist
HAIR + MAKEUP: Jessica Saint Beauty @jessicasaintbeauty
and Toni Burke @toniburke_muah
VENUE: Hagley Museum, Wilmington, Delaware, @hagleymuseum
TABLE STYLING: Shannon Wellington @shannonwellingtonweddings
DESIGN ASSISTANCE: Jennifer Bender @thisholidayhouse