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Seen A Japanese Mum Festival

Monday, October 28, 2002

By Marylynn Uricchio, Post-Gazette SEEN Editor

If you died and went to heaven, it might look something like the Festival of Chrysanthemums on display at Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens. Glorious mums in every shade of fall filled the glass rooms with a spicy fragrance Thursday night as guests gathered for the annual Fall Flower Show and Wine Tasting Party. Phipps collaborated with the Japan-America Society in modeling the show after the traditional Japanese chrysanthemum festivals, and the party borrowed that theme in gentle ways.

Origami birds in flight at Phipps. (John Heller, Post-Gazette)

Sushi and kimonos, a flock of delicate origami cranes, wonderfully spare flower arrangements. Phipps offers a haven from modern life, but you really feel it on a chilly night. The warm air, twinkling lights and serpentine paths that meander into private pockets of botanical bliss created the perfect oasis for a party. All the wine you could drink (unless specialty beers are your cup of tea) put a buzz on the proceedings, with the added bonus of finding a few new favorites in the assortment provided by Kevin Piacentini of Winery Associates. He's the brother of Phipps executive director Richard Piacentini, and he generously donates the wine each year. Light fare throughout the conservatory was provided by fine caterers (Chaya Japanese Cuisine, Parkhurst, Perfect Event Catering, Rania's, the Coffee Tree and the Common Plea) as a welcome complement to the tasting stations.

The main business of the night was socializing, of course, with guests eventually finding their way to the outdoor garden and the terrific Boilermaker Jazz Band. Carmel apples and popcorn balls arranged on mounds of colorful penny candy were hard to eat with any grace, but they continued the fall mood until it was time to go home.

Alexandrine Mellon and Christine Astorino Del Sole served as co-chairs of the evening with input from outgoing Special Events chair Louise Hartman and committee members including party-goers Shirley Arther, Lowrie Ebbert, Elin Roddey, Nancy Scarton, Dianne Gerlach, Paul Spencer, Karla Groninger, Sue Colaizzi and Sue Barnes.

Phipps board chair Dr. Al Biglan came with Barbara and mingled with guests including Suzy and Jim Broadhurst, Josh and Farley Whetzel, Alex and Silvia Speyer, Roberta Connelly, Suzie Steitz, Stephen and Mary Klein, Joe Lagana, Gail and Greg Harbaugh, Beth and Don Smith, Mernie Berger, John and Rona Dane, Larry Breck, Dolores Wilson Smith, Dr. Jim Dill, Shirley Blaxter, Melissa Kelly and Al Vivadio, Eric Wagner, Janet and Matt Simon, Randy and Van Dauler, Ken Ogilvie, Jim and Judy Stalder, Jim and Mary Jo Winokur, Tom Auchter, Marnie and Larry Conley, Marjorie Hughes, Barbara Carpenter and Michael Miller, Sally Ketchum, Susan Nemberg, Derek Simmel, Drew Kistler and the Phipps' Greg DuFour and Tim Colbert.

The fall flower show, with 90 varieties of mums, continues through Nov. 10. Call 412-622-6914 for information.

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