"It's always on the sideboard in the dining room," said DeVoy, who has been an exhibitor in every Filoli flower show. Her theme "Through the Looking Glass" will feature mirrored and reflected surfaces. Clients also know to expect the unusual. "I like to push the limits a little," she said.
DeVoy will be one of more than 70 amateurs and professional designers whose work will be displayed on Mother's Day weekend. The show's theme — interpreting children's storybooks with flowers — will be reflected through flower arrangements, plant collections, table settings, children's exhibits and garden landscapes.
The horticulture staff has created succulent gifts that look like shoes or purses, which will be for sale in the Garden Shop. The old golf cart used by Filoli's former owner, Lurline Roth, to bring flowers back to the house from the cutting garden will be decorated in a "Cat in the Hat" theme. Robin Stockwell of Succulent Gardens in Castroville has created a Winnie the Pooh made entirely from succulents.
The range of book titles goes from "Little Women" to "The Lonely Firefly."
The four days of festivities will include Mother's Day teas, champagne brunches, boxed lunches, flower-arranging demonstrations and musical performances. Filoli's 16 acres of lawn and lavish gardens will be in full bloom.
The historic greenhouses, where visitors can view plants that have been in the Filoli collection since 1920, will also be open. Docents will be on hand in the greenhouse courtyard to answer questions about Filoli and personal gardens.
The flower show begins with an opening night reception Thursday, May 9. In keeping with the theme and 25th anniversary, Lurline Roth's son, William, and twin daughters Lurline Coonan and Berenice Spalding will be honored guests.
Visitors will also be able to meet designers, while viewing their exhibits, and stroll through the gardens at dusk. Hors d'oeuvres, wine and champagne will be served.
The gardens and mansion are familiar to DeVoy who has been a house flower arranger at Filoli for 23 years. She also exhibits at Bouquets to Art at the de Young Museum, the annual Cathedral Flower Festival held each October at St. Mary's Cathedral and the San Francisco Antique Show at Fort Mason.
Her love of flowers began as a child. "My mother was a fabulous gardener. She was always out in the garden and I was usually out there with her ... not always to her pleasure," she added with a laugh. She studied floral design and has a teaching degree in Ikebana, but relies mostly on her imagination, often waking at 2 or 3 in the morning to work on an idea.
"I push the edge of formal design," she said.
Her workshop is in the family garage with her husband James DeVoy as primary assistant. "All the hauling and lifting. I don't know how I could do it without him," she said.
She also relies on finding the finest during 4:30 a.m. visits to the Brannan Street wholesale flower market in San Francisco. "It's the best flower market in the world," she said.
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What: "Petal Tales, Once Upon a Time," Filoli's 25th-anniversary flower show
When: Thursday, May 9, through Sunday, May 12
Where: Filoli, 86 Canada Road, Woodside
Cost: Opening night reception (Thursday, May 9, 5:30-8 p.m.): $85 nonmembers, $75 members; Flower show: $25 nonmembers, $20 members, $10 for children 5-17; prices vary for the opening night reception, Friday or Saturday teas and Sunday champagne brunches, which include admission to the flower show. Monday, May 6, is the last day to purchase brunch tickets.
Pre-ordered box lunches are $20 for adults, $12 for children.
Info: Go to www.filoli.org or call 650-364-8300, ext. 508.