This year’s A Writer’s Garden Literary Symposium and Luncheon at the Dallas Arboretum on Tueseday, November 19, was a showcase of what makes southern lifestyles so popular. With floral arrangements and a dedicated-to-the south menu, it was the perfect setting for keynote speakers Bunny Williams and Rebecca Wesson Darwin to share their findings and benefit the Women’s Council of the Dallas Arboretum. Here’s a report from the field:
The 13th Annual A Writer’s Garden Literary Symposium and Luncheon chaired by Nikki Beneke began the morning “Celebrating Southern Style” in Rosine Hall at the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden with a wonderful and tasty coffee reception filled with mouth-watering edibles placed in silver towers full of delicious bites amongst glorious hydrangeas, created by Janet Sue Rush and her team. Benefiting the Women’s Council of the Dallas Arboretum and A Woman’s Garden, the luncheon and symposium featured interior designer and author Bunny Williams and Garden and Gun Magazine Co-Founder/CEO Rebecca Wesson Darwin, as speakers.
Women’s Council President Venise Stuart welcomed the crowd saying how exciting it is to have both of these fabulous iconic women in one room and how thrilled everyone is to hear these ladies’ presentations. She thanked Nikki for her hard work on this very successful event as chairman and brought her to the stage.
Nikki began her remarks with a quote from Audrey Hepburn saying, “To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.” She thanked everyone who attended the sold–out event and welcomed Bunny Williams and Rebecca Wesson Darwin. She said that she never dreamed that there would be ten tornadoes in north Texas and she would need to coordinate the response for the voluntary agencies while planning this event and expressed her sincere thoughts and prayers for all of our neighbors for their long term recovery.
Nikki thanked Sharon Adams, public relations and Beth Dunham, graphics artist, for their work with her so that media sponsors ads deadlines were met while she had to work on her computer from a closet at the MARC (Multi-Agency Resource Center) during the tornado crisis. She thanked Garden and Gun as national media sponsor. PaperCity, The Park Cities News/The Waters Family, Downtown Business News and My Sweet Charity as local media sponsors.
Nikki was called to the Mayor’s office on Monday to receive a Proclamation from the City of Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson honoring the 13th Annual A Writer’s Garden and the Women’s Council. Nikki presented it to the Women’s Council. Nikki shared that the Arboretum and the Jewel of the Arboretum, A Woman’s Garden, are places of celebration, family time and respite. Many proposals take place in A Woman’s Garden and it is no surprise as it captures the heart and soul of a woman in its design. She shared that the Arboretum and A Woman’s Garden have been very important in her life. After her father passed suddenly, she spent time in A Woman’s Garden journaling, painting … and healing.
She thanked Fundraising VP Sarah Jo Hardin, Arrangements Chair Marcy Jones, Reservations Chair Connie Rhoades, Book Ordering and Sales Co-Chairs Marsha Dowler and Dorothea Meltzer, Volunteer Coordinator Joella Phillips, Patron Party Reservations Chair Mary Ellen Winborn, Patron Party caterers Food Glorious Food and Craig, Gil’s Elegant Catering staff and Steve Servin, R.W. Raabe at Gold Crown Valet for donating two parties, Announcement Party co-hosts Karen and Craig Goodman, Patron Party host Lucy Crow Billingsley, Honorary Chair Carmen Hancock and her husband Trammell Hancock for his helpful support, Arboretum Special Event Coordinator Angela Rollins and Arboretum liaison Charlotte Morrison.
Nikki introduced New York Times bestselling-author, screenwriter, journalist and Texas Monthly Magazine executive editor Skip Hollandsworth as emcee.
In his introduction, Skip said that A Woman’s Garden is the only public garden in the nation conceived of by women, supported by the efforts of women and dedicated to the spirit of women. “What you’ve created here is not just a place full of pretty plants, but a place of restoration and rejuvenation.”
Bunny was the first to present. Her newest book “Love Affairs with Houses” was released this past spring. The book presents her new work through 15 houses she has decorated and loved. She tells the story of each “affair,” as she calls them, tracing the style of the spaces, what drew her to the projects and her approach to décor that evolves with the lives of her clients. Bunny said, “The best pieces have the best stories,” and in this story-filled monograph, she shows readers a fresh collection of projects that demonstrates just that.
Rebecca spoke about Garden and Gun’s newest release, “Southern Women.” It is a rich collection of some of the South’s most notable women. Through interviews, essays and more, these remarkable chefs, musicians, actors, writers, artists, entrepreneurs, designers and public servants will offer a dynamic portrait of who the Southern woman is now. The voices of bona fide icons such as Sissy Spacek, Leah Chase, Bunny Williams and Loretta Lynn join those whose stories for too long have been overlooked or underestimated. From the pioneering Texas rancher Minnie Lou Bradley to the Gee’s Bend, Alabama quilter Mary Margaret Pettway – all visionaries who have left their indelible mark not just on Southern culture, but on America itself. By reading these stories of triumph, grit and grace, the ties that bind the sisterhood of Southern woman emerge: an unflinching resilience and resourcefulness, an inherent love of the land, a singular style and wit.
An absolutely wonderful Southern-style luncheon was served on tables graced with royal blue silk pin tuck tablecloths topped with blue and white Chinoiserie vases filled with antique hydrangeas and lavender roses. Luncheon included mini jalapeno cornbread muffins, RD herb cheddar biscuits and mini sweet potato scones in the bread basket; a salad of organic field greens with Dallas bleu cheese, poached pear, radicchio cup, spiced walnuts, pomegranate seeds, dried cherry vinaigrette and garnished with violas; entrée of petite filet mignon with mushrooms demi sauce, truffle mac-and-cheese flan, green beans and red pepper bundle with yellow baby squash and desserts from Seasons 52 Mini Indulgence: pistachio macaroon and a flourless chocolate mini bite. A special drink named a Secret Garden Cocktail was also served in honor of the day.
Afterwards, the speakers signed books, met with fans and new friends and remarked how wonderful, enjoyable and beautiful the event was. Find out more by visiting the website at www.womenscouncildallasarboretum.org
* Photo credit: Dana Driensky ** Graphic provided by Women's Council of the Dallas Arboretum