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Spring is in full bloom at South Coast Plaza, where 2 events will delight weekend visitors

The vibrant figure of Empress Wu Zetian at the "Fleurs de Villes FEMMES" floral exhibit at South Coast Plaza's Jewel Court.
The vibrant figure of Empress Wu Zetian at the “Fleurs de Villes FEMMES” floral exhibit at South Coast Plaza’s Jewel Court, on display through Sunday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Spring is in full bloom at South Coast Plaza this weekend as the center features two spectacular events designed to inspire fresh ideas for the home and garden and to celebrate extraordinary women in history through art, fashion and flowers.

Now through Sunday visitors are invited to participate in the 32nd annual Southern California Spring and Garden Show, making its return after a modified event last spring with the theme “At Home in the Garden” in the Macy’s Home Store/Crate & Barrel wing on Bear Street.

Seven outdoor living spaces created by area landscape designers, decorators and horticultural groups have been outfitted with furniture and accessories from South Coast Plaza’s home stores, while garden and plant vendors will be on hand to share tips, trends and tricks of the trade.

The "At One with Nature" exhibit inspired by the Pacific Northwest includes a bald eagle with her chicks.
The “At One with Nature” two-story exhibit inspired by the Pacific Northwest includes a bald eagle with her chicks as part of the 32nd annual Southern California Spring Garden Show at South Coast Plaza
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

A two-story exhibit, “At One with Nature,” was created for the occasion out of floral and botanical materials and inspired by the Pacific Northwest. But that’s not the only photo-worthy display.

This weekend also marks the West Coast debut of “Fleurs de Villes FEMMES,” an array of 16 floral art mannequins in the center’s Jewel Court inspired by women who have made a significant cultural, historical or social impact.

A figure of fashion icon Iris Apfel at the "Fleurs de Villes FEMMES" floral exhibit at South Coast Plaza's Jewel Court.
A figure of fashion icon Iris Apfel at the “Fleurs de Villes FEMMES” floral exhibit at South Coast Plaza’s Jewel Court, which runs through Sunday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

The figures — which depict Serena Williams, Grace Kelly, Frida Kahlo and Aretha Franklin alongside prominent regional trailblazers— were designed by Southern California floral artists, who created the works using just a photo and some basic guidelines.

“We pop up in public places and bring flowers to the people,” said Tina Barkley, who co-founded Vancouver-based Fleurs de Villes with business partner Karen Marshall in 2015 and has since staged luxury floral experiences worldwide.

The FEMMES series focuses on the stories of remarkable women while shining a spotlight on local designers. Recently introduced in Miami, the series is gaining in popularity.

A designer touches up a Helena Modjeska figure at the "Fleurs de Villes FEMMES" floral exhibit.
A designer touches up a Helena Modjeska figure at the “Fleurs de Villes FEMMES” floral exhibit at South Coast Plaza Thursday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

“It allows florists to think beyond the bouquet,” Barkley said Thursday during a preview at South Coast Plaza. “It’s like the circus comes to town, and they all want to join us, because it showcases their talent.”

Floral designer Morgen Howells, owner of San Juan Capistrano-based company Fleur.ish, created a tribute to American novelist Edith Wharton, rendered in vivid red roses, carnations, orchids and button mums. Weighing more than 400 pounds, the statue took several days to complete.

A figure of tennis star Serena Williams at "Fleurs de Villes FEMMES," a floral exhibit at South Coast Plaza's Jewel Court.
Guests get an up-close look at a figure of tennis star Serena Williams rendered in flowers at “Fleurs de Villes FEMMES,” an exhibit at South Coast Plaza’s Jewel Court that runs through Sunday.
(Don Leach /Staff Photographer)

“Think of it like the floats at the Rose Parade. It’s kind of the same thing, although not as large,” Howells said. “We were given a budget, but most of us went a little overboard, because we’re dedicated to our craft and representing our brand.”

Debra Gunn Downing, executive director of South Coast Plaza, said the show is dazzlingly unique.

“I really love the way the artists interpreted each person and how they translated that into flowers,” she said. “It’s such an Instagrammable moment and so visually stunning. It’s a must see for sure, both this and the Garden Show, just a great thing to do for the weekend.”

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