Behind the Design: Festival of Flowers 2019

Exterior Designer Catherine Arensberg shares an inside look at the work that goes into creating the greatest flower show on earth.

Catherine Arensberg

Last summer I was asked to be the lead designer for the 2019 Festival of Flowers show – the premier flower show on the Gulf Coast that has been an annual tradition for area garden enthusiasts and admirers of all things beautiful for 26 straight running years. I have been involved in the show for a decade as a garden designer, vendor and speaker, but was genuinely surprised and honored to be asked to design the entire show. Until I started to roll up my sleeves, I could not have imagined the enormity of the task.

I lost sleep for the first few days, imagining the possibilities. Beyond the theme, colors and layout of the show, more than anything, I wanted to create an experience that would feel fresh and immersive and would have something of interest for everyone, no matter the age. My goal is to create an environment that excites people from the moment they arrive and allows them to be more than observers, but also participants. We want to engage all their senses, compel them to share the event on social media and generate enough enthusiasm that they tell their family and friends about it, long after they leave.

The Festival of Flowers is an epic collaborative event, involving hundreds of talented and creative people from our very own community working hard behind the scenes. They have been donating their time and energy to design and construct some impressive design elements like a flowing 156 ft. canal and a 24 ft. functioning windmill. They have built displays in front of row houses, created outdoor tables, planted flowers in the entrance tent and built full-scale models of outdoor spaces. I am especially proud of our community outreach with the NEST program, in which we commissioned a group of teens (many of whom have never held a paint brush) to create a 14×16 mural wall – with amazing results.

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We created a show that means something to a lot of people, and I hope that it will mean something to you, too. It’s humbling when people just as creative as you, if not more so, look to you to make sure their designs are in sync with the bigger vision. Oh yeah. I’m the one with that bigger vision. Sometimes I forget that part.

The design team constantly jokes that the show is like having a baby, and it’s true. After nine months of learning, planning, scheming, meeting and designing, it’s showtime…and then the show ends and we tear it down and start all over again. I’ve added a few grey hairs to the ever-growing patch on my head, but I feel as if this year’s show will be a fresh take on an established Mobile tradition.

I invite you one and all to come to the show March 21 – 24 to see our interpretation of Dutch Gardens. I’ll be leading a group tour on Thursday at 10 a.m. and again on Friday at noon to share all the fun and informative behind-the-scenes details about the people, places and things that went into making the greatest flower show on earth!

Tickets are available at the door or at

Catherine Arensberg is an exterior designer who specializes in finding ways to create your ultimate outdoor space, no matter the budget. Browse more of her work here:

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