Imagine that!

Chuck Henry has always made magic with flowers, but nowadays when he pulls a rabbit out of his hat, he gets paid for it, too.

After 14 years of volunteering his talents for the Southeastern Flower Show, the Atlanta floral designer recently was hired as the event’s first director of show design. He’s responsible for developing a theme and look that tie together the hundreds of garden and floral displays featured in the annual horticultural extravaganza. Yet the most critical part of his job is to visually blow away winter-weary visitors from the moment they enter the doors to the Georgia World Congress Center.

“If you don’t grab them at the entrance, where you have that one chance to make that first impression, you lose them,” says Henry. “The entrance has to wow them so that they say, ‘Ooh, there really is something here!’ ” Henry recently took AH&L behind the five-day show’s scenes:

This year’s theme is “Imagine That!” What should visitors expect?

Henry: After years of concrete themes involving French, Italian and English gardens, we thought we would challenge the exhibitors by asking them if they’ve ever had a dream, no matter how wild, of creating something and what would that look like. We asked the landscape designers what was the one idea they’ve always wanted to do for a client that would knock their socks off. The point is to do the totally unexpected but at the same time create something with ideas that visitors can take home and try.

For last year’s French theme, you created an entry garden around Marie Antoinette. What were some of the challenges? And what do you have up your sleeve for this year’s entrance?
Henry: Hall’s Flowers donated 5,000 flowers to the show, and I thought, ‘What can we do with that many flowers?’ So I came up with the idea of Marie in a courtyard of roses behind a scrim that would slowly reveal the garden as the lights went up. But on the morning we opened we quickly realized that unless visitors stood there a moment they would miss the displays, so we removed the scrim and did more general lighting. This year’s entrance will be a dream garden that will lift your thoughts, literally, off the ground, because 75 percent of it will be suspended in air, including a bed with linens made entirely of flowers.

How is the drought affecting your plans?
Henry: Our landscape designers are taking the challenge of dry conditions and still creating great Southern gardens but surprising us with new twists. This spring we know that visitors may not be able to plant the flowers they’ve had in the past, but at the show they can get great ideas for smaller displays like container gardens or for a gravel pathway or for getting creative with mulches and ground covers instead of lawns.

What advice can you give visitors who come seeking decorating and landscaping ideas?
Henry: If there’s an area of your garden you would like change, be open to different ideas but remember why you are there. Otherwise, it’s easy to get distracted. Also, revisit a section of the show you like. Show the design professional on hand what you like, even if you don’t know why you like it. That will help point him or her in the direction for helping you determine your needs.

Southeastern Flower Show: Jan. 30 – Feb. 3, Georgia World Congress Center, Building A. (404) 351-1074,


Nature’s Way
The designer: Clay Snider, Clay Snider Interiors. The inspiration: Birds. The concept: Snider disguised a goose topiary to create this peacock centerpiece, which features hydrangeas, ferns, English ivy and feathers. It tops a wire urn stuffed with moss, accented by white porcelain bird figurines. A plaid silk tablecloth overlays a burlap cloth, and place settings feature rattan chargers, bird-patterned china and bamboo flatware. Napkin rings made of small peacocks round out the nature theme, including blue upholstered chairs. “I wanted to emphasize sky blues and turquoises,” Snider says.


All in the Texture
The designer:  Janie Hirsch, J. Hirsch Interior Design. The inspiration: Nature. The concept:  “I was going for a natural feeling—earthy but still very elegant—with different textures,” Hirsch says. A coarse burlap tablecloth and bamboo chairs form a contrast to place settings that feature white ceramic plates, green stemware, beaded green linen napkins and stainless-steel bamboo flatware. The green-and-white color scheme includes a centerpiece of three glass cylinders containing white hyacinths, tulips and calla lilies. Accenting each plate is a small flowerpot made from a section of bamboo cane, and moss balls are tossed about for a whimsical touch.


Le Jardin
The designers: Pebbles Glenn, Kristin Epting; Glenn Epting Interior Design. The inspiration: “When we found out the show theme was French,” Glenn says, “we knew we wanted to create a beautiful garden in France.” The concept: Sheet moss and sand create the illusion of a formal garden’s lawn and pathways, with a fleur-de-lis centerpiece. “We wanted to create something organic and symbolic of the country,” Glenn says. “But we also wanted to make it edgy with a variety of seating.” Salmon carnations, kumquats and sheet moss form the fleur-de-lis, surrounded by wheat grass. Elegant white bowls of Herend china, filled with berries and kumquats, are juxtaposed with an earthy burlap tablecloth.


Evening in Paris
The designer: David Henson, David Henson Interiors. The inspiration: A French garden party The concept: Simplicity rules in this display, which highlights a clean-lined French garden table paired with 18th-century chairs upholstered in an Italian silk damask medallion print. The centerpiece is comprised of cloches covering miniature fig and myrtle topiaries planted in Italian terra-cotta pots. “I wanted the whole thing to be simple — like all the stuff was brought outdoors to form a party in the garden,” Henson says.