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Winghaven's Magic Spellbound in the Garden

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By Erin Rutherford

When invited to design the menu for a celebratory garden luncheon under the city’s most enchanted natural sanctuaries, my obvious answer was “YES!!!” Not only was this an opportunity to work with interior design sensation, Charlotte Lucas, but it was a chance to tap into the current buzz surrounding Wing Haven Garden and Bird Sanctuary.
Over the past few months, Wing Haven has found itself at home with fashion visionaries, design enthusiasts and horticultural mavens. Consider this and you will start to understand the magic of Wing Haven…quiet pools filled with tangerine colored goldfish, canopies of ivy effortlessly draping archways, and, every once in a while, you may spot the winged beauty of a bird recently nursed back to health. As eloquently described by Capitol owner and fashion curator, Laura Vinroot, this is none other than “a spectacular Charlotte treasure where time stops.”
With the support and intuition of Charlotte business owners like Vinroot, the surge of popularity Wing Haven is receiving should come as no surprise. But, it has taken more than the loyalty of local celebrity to continue the growth of its gardens. It has taken the relentless commitment of its volunteers and staff to further its core mission of inspiring natural beauty, stirring the human spirit and preserving the constitution of our earthly creatures.
The story of Wing Haven is something of a more innocent time. It comes from an age where social media didn’t dictate popularity and an era that allowed years to pass in achieving a vision. Although it was created in 1927, its promotion and preservation has been managed by the Wing Haven Foundation since the early 1970s. This Foundation has tactfully honored the intentions of its founding members, albeit never losing sight of Wing Haven’s potential to be a part of today’s pop-culture.
The Wing Haven of 2017 equally shares its gardens with inquisitive adolescents and style savvy bloggers. On-line campaigns like that produced for a recent Dolce and Gabbana photo shoot highlight, not only the art of a billowing, ruffled dress, but also the blank canvas a well-manicured Southern garden can provide. It is amazing to witness the apparent ease in which Wing Haven can transform itself from horticultural institution into a runway-worthy stage.
It only seems befitting that the theme of the upcoming 2017 Wing Haven Fall Symposium is titled “Inspiring the Unexpected.” To achieve such a tenacious theme, Wing Haven orchestrated a platform that celebrates achievements from the past and present. The Symposium will honor the legacy of gifted author and horticulturist, Elizabeth Lawrence, whose manuscripts published some 75 years ago remain timeless. And, in this vein, the Symposium will welcome the garden wisdoms of Ken Druse and Margot Shaw, both of whom carry certain stature amongst today’s nature enthusiasts.
Obviously, the Symposium will carry certain distinction; a prominence that will be conveyed throughout the events leading up to the masterful morning speaker series held at Charlotte Country Club. Although the two-day affair won’t officially begin until Wednesday, October 18th, it felt as if the excitement commenced earlier this fall when the charming Charlotte Lucas hosted Wing Haven’s “Gardener’s Delight” luncheon.
It is as if Lucas was finally granted an excuse to play in the gardens that she lovingly recalls from her childhood. Her excitement simply penetrated the grounds as patrons marveled at the colorful, unharnessed bird cages, couture-like china and fanciful patterns that now glamorized a humble workman’s table. The china, courtesy of Elizabeth Bruns Jewelers, was smartly plated in layers. A red lace Mottahedeh charger acted as the base for Carlton Gold dinner plates and Imari salad plates, both by the famed Royal Crown Derby.
Although the china was fine, the most outstanding component of the table was the peacock-bedecked fabric anchoring the table. This whimsical “Windwood” pattern was the product of Lucas’ new venture, House of Harris, an American-made fabric line she composed with her sister, and fellow interior designer, Liz Carroll. Set to debut at the 2017 International High Point Market, House of Harris was born out of the sisters’ passion for design and their light-hearted nod to their heavily planted Southern roots.
They succeeded in designing a line that every design aficionado will applaud. In similar lights, Lucas prevailed in designing a tablescape that every witness commended by not only using finery, but by also allowing the garden’s all-encompassing view to shine. Basically stated, Lucas explained “nothing on the table needed to compete with the natural beauty of the garden”...it just needed to reflect her personal flair.
It is no coincidence that I then set out to create a menu that would be understated, yet impressive. I wanted the food to reflect my particular cooking style while not competing with the outstanding table design. There would be nothing over the top, just food humbly composed to compliment the art of the plate. This concept translated as a crystal William Yeoward footed bowl simply cradled my marinated, yet crisp red and green apples. And, the star of the menu, a roasted root vegetable panzanella, just danced along the patterned and gilt-etching of its scene, with its ribbons of crimson beets, the golden hue of thyme honey mustard dressing, and the clean, white globe of fresh burrata.
As you can see, Wing Haven clearly brings out the best in all facets of art. From garden green thumbs to food fanatics like me, it allows the creative-side in all of us to execute a vision. Wing Haven has its vision for the future, and quite tellingly, it is an enthusiasm felt by all ages.

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