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Fleurs de Villes invites you to raise a bouquet to launch ROSÉ, our glorious 2021 fresh floral celebration in support of breast cancer research.

11-20 June 2021. The first thing we come to is a cascade of geraniums flowing like a wave down a long flight of stairs. I’d had no idea what to expect. Don mentioned something about a flower exhibition so we’d caught the skytrain downtown to see what it was all about. The geraniums are a complete surprise. And a complete delight.

It’s June 2021. Covid is raging. We’re all still avoiding indoor activities with anyone except those in our bubble. Masks are mandatory. Travel is completely out of the question. How refreshing it is to have something different to do, something new to add a little variety to our days.

We weave our way around the downtown core coming upon one surprise after another. Roses up a tree;

and a mannequin with a skirt of peonies.

It’s Fleurs de Villes Rosé, a joint project of a couple of Vancouver’s downtown business associations, the Breast Cancer Society of Canada, the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, and Fleurs de Villes. Fleurs de Villes – flowers of the cities – founded several years ago by Tina Barkley and Karen Marshall, combines the love of flowers, local design talent, and bespoke, utterly unique displays, for experiential events like none other. Connecting with each city we launch in, we work with top local florists, designers, growers and nurseries, to showcase that city’s world-class talent and create stunning displays of art. Fleurs de Villes has had extensive floral installation exhibitions in Paris, London, Toronto, Seattle, Miami, Edinburgh, Sydney, Montreal, New York City and more. Fleurs de Villes Rosé launched around the world in five countries and more than a dozen cities. Lucky us that Vancouver is one of them.

Of course I know nothing of this at the time. I realize fairly quickly that it’s all pink, and that it’s to raise awareness and funds for breast cancer research, but beyond that I’m just moving in a whirl of delight as we make our way from one unexpected exuberant installation to the next. They are everywhere, both indoors and out, in settings both surprising and ingenious.

An old-fashioned telephone box filled with flowers and more flowing over the top;

bicycles overflowing with flowers; several huge floral hearts, one of them emerging from a lush green hedge; a pyramid of blooms big enough to walk into; and a giant floral butterfly. Masses of enormous arrangements are draped around windows and doors; they form a glorious extravagant arc from the ground up over and down around an English garden swing; and they flow along the top of fence railings.

There are dogs – a pink and white dalmatian with a collar of orange daisies, a fluffy pink poodle,

and mademoiselle-in-a-mini-skirt stepping out with her afghan.

Altogether there are fifty pink-themed floral installations including flower-bombed cars,

a decorated garden swing where Don adds to the ambiance,

and a fountain overflowing with roses.

But mostly there are mannequins – long thin female mannequins wearing gorgeous ball gowns of flowers, each one a flowing fantasy. We move from one to the next and I am dazzled by the creativity, the elegance, the grace.

And don’t forget to look up! Here a cluster of blooms under an umbrella,

and there a beauty sitting nonchalantly above Banana Republic,

while (in the opening photograph) another is lounging along the top of a bus shelter. They stand on street corners,

and in hotel lobbies.

They are everywhere! And we are thoroughly enchanted.

The whole exhibition was a much needed explosion of beauty, each piece a little burst of joy during a time when we were all feeling a bit stifled, when our lives had shrunk to the mundane and a hope to simply survive the invisible enemy, which now, thankfully, seems to have largely worn itself out.

Fleurs De Villes returns to Vancouver in June of this year. The theme is Femmes, Women, a floral series dedicated to culturally, politically, and historically significant women throughout the ages. We will miss it. I can’t say I’m really sorry since we will be in Greece!

All words and images by Alison Louise Armstrong unless otherwise noted
© Alison Louise Armstrong and Adventures in Wonderland – a pilgrimage of the heart, 2010-2022.