In the dead of winter, when even camellia blooms are browning from hard freezes, a bevy of beautiful flowers awaits inside First Presbyterian Church.
The third annual Old City Flower Festival opens at 10 a.m. Saturday in the sanctuary of the 155-year-old church at the corner of Mulberry and First streets.
Designers from 14 churches have been planning the event since August, when they chose the location for their arrangements.
The main purpose of this is to use our talents that God has given us to glorify him and use the creation that hes given us, the flowers, and to arrange them to his glory, said Ellen Danner, a flower guild member of First Presbyterian. We do enjoy also working with other people who enjoy working with flowers.
The host church is creating a magnificent red flower cross that will be the focal point behind the pulpit.
It is absolutely wonderful for all the different churches, said Ginny Rozier, of Christ Episcopal Church, which hosted the event last year.
Rozier is playing off the red cross, with large arrangements inspired by a Julie Andrews concert televised from Vienna.
Large floral boxes in the opera hall were filled with various shades of red.
Standing in the middle of the church Friday, Rozier directed fellow guild members who were trying to mimic their display on the other side of the altar.
Theyre like kissing cousins, she said after evaluating the similarity of the presentation of red Freedom roses, red hydrangeas, hypericum berries, anthurium and foliage of nandina leucothea.
As the Christ Church ladies arranged on the outer corners of the altar Friday, Roslyn Rawls Platt was filling a brass urn with fiery hues of red, yellow and orange from roses, lilies, snapdragons, Gerbera daisies and chrysanthemums.
I love anything to do with flowers. You could ask anyone in here, youd get the same answer, I bet, from all of us, said Rawls Platt, who is a member of the Vineville Baptist flower guild.
Her flowers balance a similar arrangement put together by Vineville Methodist Church, which will host the festival next year.
The designers dont really collaborate with each other, but it might look that way.
God does it every year, said Elaine Schmitt, who co-founded the festival with her colleague at St. Joseph Catholic Church, Steve Gonser. We all seem to be using the reds, the oranges and the greens. It all comes together.
This year, St. Joseph is partnering with Holy Spirit and Sacred Heart Catholic churches to decorate the choir loft to complement the ornate rug on the center aisle.
You learn a lot when you do stuff like this just from watching other people, said Gonser, who had his eye on the team from Mulberry Street United Methodist Church.
Amy Griffith Dever and Judy Hodgens Bryant were building a flowerless creation on a wrought iron obelisk on a table to the right of the altar.
The simple combination of dark green loquat leaves and red winter berry on bare branches had an Ikebana feel, said one of the other designers.
Loquat is a nice little change of pace from magnolia, Griffith Dever said. Its got a little longer stem, a little oriental kind of look to it.
The winter berry was a challenge to find, she said.
We did not get arrested and we did not get hit by a car, she joked.
Im not telling anyone where I got it, but I know no one is stupid enough to go there.
Griffith Dever said she hoped their arrangement would inspire others to think outside the flower box.
You dont always have to buy cut flowers, Griffith Dever said. You can certainly get much bigger scale when youre using natural materials.
The church will be open to visitors Saturday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and on Sunday afternoon from 1 to 4 p.m.
There is no charge for the festival.
Phyllis Gamble, of First Presbyterian Flower Guild, said her church has been looking forward to hosting for three years.
Its a lot of work, but when you see all the beauty in the church, its just gorgeous, she said.
To contact writer Liz Fabian, call 744-4303.