New White House chief floral designer Hedieh Ghaffarian explains the flower designs for the Canada state dinner at the preview.

Hedieh Ghaffarian, the new White House chief floral designer, made her big public debut Wednesday at the press preview for the Canada state dinner that will honor Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his wife, Sophie Gregoire.

Ghaffarian chose a timely theme: the coming of spring as reflected in romantic green and white flowers: tightly packed bouquets and cascading orchids, hydrangeas, amaranth and roses.

This event is the Iranian-born California flower designer’s first start-to-finish effort in planning and executing the floral decorations for the most formal of White House entertaining events, the state dinner.


An example of a place setting that will be used at State Dinner for Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the White House Thursday. (Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images)

“I wanted to give you the feeling of walking through a garden when all the flowers start to bloom,” Ghaffarian said in her brief presentation. She said she chose green because it is said to be one of Gregoire’s favorite colors; yellow since it is “the first color of spring and the color of friendship.”

Ghaffarian reported for duty in October after the hasty departure of chief floral designer Laura Dowling in February 2015. Ghaffarian’s elegant look for this dinner seemed a bit more traditional than the looser garden style her predecessor was known for. Dowling’s work sometimes featured unexpected touches: She would occasionally throw in a Brussels sprout or cactus into her centerpieces. Ghaffarian appeared to have left the woodsy look to the pastry chefs, who planned a sugar sculpture named “A View From the Mountain Top.”


The official Obama administration state china place settings include an individual-size tureen, which is being used for the first time at the Canada state dinner to serve halibut casserole.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

The tables for the dinner have cloths woven in several shades of green and will be set with the official Obama administration state china and votive candles burning in green glass holders. Each table has several different small green and yellow bouquets on it, composed of roses, parrot tulips or other spring flowers.

Also making their debut at the Canada state dinner: the official “Kailua Blue” individual tureens: a form not found in any other White House china services. When the Obama china was introduced last April, the cute little tureens were not quite ready. Cris Comerford, White House executive chef, was waiting for them and created a special baked Alaskan halibut “casserole” to be served in them Thursday evening.

 

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