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"I like contemporary designs that don't require a lot of time and money," says floral designer Sara Bagley, pictured here in Mable Ringling's Rose Garden.
Arts and Entertainment Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2011 7 years ago

Flower child

by: Heidi Kurpiela Contributing Writer

Sara Bagley has never felt so connected to 500-year-old paintings.

In the 22 years Bagley has lived in Sarasota, she’s visited The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art dozens of time.

Yet Bagley, a Sarasota floral designer and past president of the Founders Garden Club, has never been as absorbed in the museum’s permanent art collection as she has these last few weeks.

“Giving a cursory glance to paintings in a gallery is different than dreaming about interpreting a work at 2 o’clock in the morning,” says Bagley, a Landings resident and Ringling board member, who for the last year and half has served as a liaison between the museum and the 27 floral designers participating in this month in “Ringling in Bloom” exhibit.

The four-day exhibition is dedicated to floral designs modeled after paintings in the museum’s permanent art collection.

The concept seems straightforward enough, except when you consider the fact that, under ordinary circumstances, plant life and water would never be allowed into the Ringling galleries.

“Putting on an event like this is very complicated,” says Maureen Zaremba, the museum’s associate curator of education.

In Zaremba’s 12 years with the museum, she’s never organized a floral event that takes place inside the galleries.

After much cajoling from local garden clubs, Zaremba agreed to curate a flower show coinciding with the museum’s “Gardens in Perpetual Bloom” exhibit, which runs now through April 24 and includes more than 100 botanical prints developed by the Museum of Fine Arts, in Boston.

Bagley, a flower judge and national officer for the Garden Club of America, was among those nudging Zaremba to organize the event.

“I’ve always been interested in arranging flowers,” Bagley says. “My mother was in a garden club. Our refrigerator was always filled with flowers and my father would joke that there was never anything to eat.”

Bagley honed her passion for floral design as a student at Columbus College of Art and Design in her native Ohio.

“It’s all color and texture,” says Bagley, whose contemporary designs have served as table centerpieces at local fundraisers for Historic Spanish Point and the Ringling Museum. “I’m lucky. I live on a nature trail that has many plant materials on it. At five in the morning, you’ll find me plucking from it.”

For her contribution to “Ringling in Bloom,” Bagley created a floral design based on Italian Renaissance painter Francesco Granacci’s “The Assumption of the Virgin.”

She selected the painting for its burgundy colors, which matched a container she purchased last year in Portland, Ore.

Using blue delphinium flowers to represent the Virgin Mary and red bamboo pillars to represent the five saints, Bagley laced calla lilies and green leaves among the bamboo stalks to recreate the composition of Granacci’s 16th century painting.

“I think most designers would have taken it in a more traditional direction,” Bagley says. “I gave it a more simple twist.”

Go outside
“We have so much to choose from in our backyards that people can just go outside and clip.”

Hunt for bamboo
“We have it at the end of our street. My husband is forever cutting it down and dragging it up the driveway.”

Pick palm fronds
“You can cut them into any shape and bend them anyway you want. They’re great accent pieces.”

Play with your food
“You get great shapes in produce that you don’t get in flowers. I use broccoli often because it creates a forest of miniature trees. Once you start using vegetables, you’ll begin looking at them in a whole new light.”

Keep a low profile
“If you’re using an arrangement as a centerpiece, keep it low and serpentine, so people can see one another when they’re sitting at your table.”

“Ringling in Bloom” runs Feb. 3 to Feb. 6, at The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art. The exhibit includes more than two-dozen floral designs inspired by paintings in the museum’s permanent collection, in addition to lectures, workshops “flowery” cuisine, a Lilly Pulitzer fashion show and performances by Key Chorale. For more information, call 360-7399 or visit

Contact Heidi Kurpiela at [email protected]


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