Festival of Flowers
Steve Taras of Watered Garden Florist in Raleigh will share his talents to raise funds for Lower Cape Fear Hospice on May 1.
As the son of a forester, Steve Taras developed an early love of plants. “We were always connected to trees, plants and blooming things,” he says. “As a child, when my brothers were playing with GI Joe, I was growing orchids and violets. I would spend my time at the local greenhouse.” Despite taking a few turns in the road, that love of plants eventually led him to open his own floral business, Watered Garden Florist in Raleigh.
On May 1, Taras and his design team will bring their highly prized floral skills to Brunswick County as the feature presenters at Festival of Flowers, a fundraising event for Lower Cape Fear Hospice. “We’ll bring a lot of flowers,” Taras says.
His interactive presentation will include demonstrations of various techniques, discussions of his design process and more. “I like it when the crowd gets engaged in the process,” he says. “I will present questions to the group as we make a design and talk about how adding a different color flower changes the design to elevate the essence of the arrangement or to bring it down. That’s a fun process.”
Taras says that some people believe they must continue an arrangement until they’ve used all the available material, which is often too much. “It’s always interesting to know when to stop,” he says. “You reach a point where [the design] is balanced and clean. We’ll talk about it.”
Born in Asheville, North Carolina, and raised in Athens, Georgia, Taras studied finance and accounting in college. He moved to Raleigh and took a position as corporate controller of a development company. During that 10-year stint, he continued his love affair with flowers, designing arrangements for himself and friends. When he left the controller job, he took the summer off before going to the next company. That hiatus included working at a wholesale floral shop, a summer job that turned into nine years. He became the fresh-cut flower buyer and learned that process. He continued to do design work on the side as well. “Eventually I was doing more design work on the side than I was making at the wholesale house,” he says.
That was when Taras took the leap to opening Watered Garden. The name is from Isiah 58:11, “You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.” He was inspired by the idea of incorporating that sentiment into his business: “Pouring myself into what I do and sharing my talents with people and being engaged with the community, like we’re doing here with Hospice to help people.”
As soon as he opened his business, he enjoyed connections with other business people who helped to promote Watered Garden. “We got going right off the bat, connected with some nice caterers who would include us in some of their jobs, and we were able to create a good reputation quickly.” One of their early clients was the North Carolina Museum of Art, where they not only supply arrangements but regularly present flower-themed workshops and events. It turns out that having the accounting background has helped tremendously as well. “It has enabled me to run a successful business,” he says. “There are a lot of good floral people who are terrible business people.”
Watered Garden’s reputation has resulted in a demand for his services around the country and overseas. “We’ve been able to travel the Southeast as well as to New York City, Washington, D.C., and Minneapolis, and we’ve been as far as Ireland and the Caribbean. It’s been fun. You never know who’s going to walk in the door.”
Taras is also the floral designer for Umstead Hotel and Spa, a five-star property in the Triangle. Each week they deliver fresh flowers to the Umstead. “The flowers are treated as art,” Taras says. “The goal is to combine something modern and contemporary with some natural elements of the landscape. That’s something we want to do when we do the Hospice program, to incorporate seasonal flowers, things from the yard and garden, sticks and twigs and branches, and a new spin on old things.”
For the May 1 program, Taras anticipates bringing a variety of interesting containers, which he says is 50 percent of any arrangement. He anticipates making about a dozen arrangements. He wants the attendees to come armed with questions. The focus will be on spring flowers that are blooming in May, but he’ll also talk about how flowers travel around the world, making a great variety of blooms available to everyone.
“The thing I hope people walk away with is to not be afraid to experiment with flowers, to try different combinations,” Taras says. “Go out on a limb and mix it up.
Lower Cape Fear Hospice’s Festival of Flowers
When: Wednesday, May 1, 4 to 6 pm
Where: Brunswick House, 101 Stone Chimney Place, Supply
Tickets: $35 each by credit card at lcfh.org under Ways to Give or by calling Anne Hewett at (910) 520-2479
Information: (910) 796-7900; lcfh.org
Hors d’oeuvres and wine will be served. Donated raffle items will include original art, live plants, Taras’ arrangements from the presentation, a Southport weekend getaway, gift baskets and more.
Sponsorships are available at $500 (2 tickets plus recognition), $1,000 (4 tickets plus other benefits), $2,500 (8 tickets plus other benefits) and $5,000 (16 tickets plus other benefits).