A first for the American Flowers Week botanical couture series, with a new state and a new look: A prairie-inspired creation from Moníca Pugh, of Floras & Bouquets LLC in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. A farmer-florist, Moníca also teaches floral design through the local school district, and she is a regular floral guest on local television.
“Flower farming is new to South Dakota,” Monica says. “I’m really hoping that [my participation in] American Flowers week will help get the word out about what’s happening with local flowers.”
Floras & Bouquets LLC is an urban flower farm in the heart of Sioux Falls, located within walking distance of downtown. “I concentrate on growing perennials in my own garden, and I rent a parcel west of town where I grow most of my annuals,” Moníca says. In her fifth season, she recently expanded her growing area with a 10-by-12 foot greenhouse on property lent by a neighbor. Moníca sells her bouquets through a local natural grocery store and also sells wholesale to florists. She markets to the public through a seasonal floral subscription service. “My bouquets attract customers who are familiar with the local food scene and who value artisan flowers,” she says.
The photoshoot took place in October 2019, at the end of Moníca’s growing season. She and photographer Patty Solis Rivero chose the Lake Alvin State Recreation Area, a partially wooded nature reserve that is used for hunting and outdoor recreation near Sioux Falls. “People typically think of Sioux Falls as all flat prairie land. But this area is actually quite hilly,” the designer explains.
South Dakota is rich in Lakota heritage, as well as its reliance on the land for hunting and farming. “I wanted to bring all that together in this floral couture look,” Moníca explains. She asked Echo Bettelyoun, who is a member of the Lakota Nation, to serve as her muse and model.
“I designed a buckskin dress and adorned it with all locally grown flowers and locally foraged items, including pheasant feathers and deer antlers. I wanted to let some of the dress show through as a neutral natural background to the flowers, so the buckskin is not completely covered.”
The back of the dress has a belt of white strawflowers and multicolored fringe created by a variety of trailing amaranth. The front is collared with Celosia, Gomphrena, white strawflowers and more amaranth. A pattern of Dahlia and ferns continue to the hem. Moníca fringed the sleeves to create movement and added strips of buckskin to the floral headpiece. The fan accessorizes the look and is finished with tassels of braided buckskin, feathers and more dried flowers.
Ingredients: Cultivated Dahlia, Celosia, amaranth, strawflowers, ferns, broom corn, foraged grasses, pheasant feathers and deer antlers.
Mechanics: Moníca wanted to emphasize the raw details of the buckskin, so she stitched it only minimally to form the base of the garment. She created the bodice’s fern detailing using a water-based decoupage technique, layering the pattern a few weeks in advance of photography. She used Oasis Floral Adhesive to attach all of the fresh botanicals and hot glue to attach dried and foraged elements. Moníca credits husband, Glenn Pugh, for suggesting a use for strips of buckskin left over after the dress was finished. The strips tie around Echo’s calves as leggings, decorated with a combination of foraged grasses, corn broom, amaranth, Celosia, strawflowers and pheasant feathers.
Floral Source: Floras & Bouquets LLC
Floral design: Moníca Pugh, Floras & Bouquets LLC
Model: Echo Bettelyoun
Hair and Makeup: Echo Bettelyoun
Photography: Patty Solis Rivero