On Sunday, September 17, the Drawing Room of the 1838 Jay Mansion was filled for more than two hours by an audience completely enraptured by the art and creativity of designer Rex Todd Rogers of Litchfield, Connecticut. Some were expert gardeners and others were young (very young) novices!
In this free, intensive workshop, Rex expertly illustrated the steps of how to construct small, intimate, color-steeped arrangements as well as ways to craft bold, theatrical displays elevating their impact by the use of branches and tall grasses. Born deaf, Rex’s resilience and focus allows him to intently see and visualize a constellation of ideas in a quieter space for results that are magnificent and totally unique. Originally planning to work as a lawyer in the field of deaf rights advocacy, he was drawn instead to a career where he could express his talents as an artist.
Those skills were abundantly in evidence as he deftly mixed market flowers like Tartan and Show and Tell dahlias, sweetly scented chocolate cosmos (that do smell like cocoa), Great Star Hydrangea paniculata, together with blooms such as Japanese anemones, black-eyed Susans, rattlesnake master and Autumn Joy sedum freshly cut from the Jay Estate Gardens. Each of his three magnificent, bespoke arrangements were then auctioned off to benefit JHC.
Some of the surprises included Rex’s use of garnet-leafed hibiscus Mahogany Splendor – it blooms in late summer and more closely resembles Japanese maple branches. Huge frilly kale leaves packed a punch of purple in the largest assemblage, suitable in height for a grand foyer. Rex ingeniously incorporated Cubaea Scandens aka Monastery Bells and delicate Japanese toad lilies, Tricyrtis Hirta, Miyazaki to add just the right notes of whimsy and asymmetry. His palette also went superbly well with the colors from JHC’s upcoming Jay Soiree – the Delmonico Way, for which he is doing the centerpieces!
With a little interpretative assistance from Suzanne Clary, Rex took questions from viewers throughout the demonstration about how long he conditioned the plant material to how many flowers he customarily added to each bouquet. In the course of the program, he shared how a bee sting as a child only made him more interested in flowers, not less. In the end, words were not necessary to communicate how much everyone enjoyed the day learning how to bring fabulous native plants and flowers into their homes this fall. See more of Rex’s design work here.
Photos by Kim Crichlow