Dwayne Harris, owner of Blossoms in Windham, has combined his interest in history and his career as a florist to decorate a warm and inviting sitting room for Christmas at Victoria Mansion, which is at 109 Danforth Street in Portland.
Harris has designed a room for the event for the past seven years as the owner of Blossoms. Prior to that, while working for other flower shops, he had been involved at the mansion. Once he had his own shop, he reached out to say he’d like to participate again.
Harris said part of the reason he likes to be involved is that he has a degree in history from Saint Joseph’s College. “It kind of ties the flowers and the history together,” he said. It’s also just fun to be a part of, he added.
The project is a labor of love, as he donates all of the time and materials to decorate the room. “I try to make it a little bit different,” said Harris. For instance, this year he was looking for something to add to the mantel. He found some birch orbs, which he used to lay amongst the garland on the mantel, and then brought in other pieces to tie it all together.
Most of the work is done in his shop ahead of time, though areas like the mantel need to be set up on site. The whole project can take 30 to 40 hours to put together, Harris said. The shop gets publicity in the mansion program that is distributed throughout the season.
Harris was responsible for the sitting room décor. The sitting room was a private space for Olive Morse, her nieces and friends to sew, read, play games and sing around the piano, according to the mansion program. Harris has decorated this room for four years, after doing the library for three.
When he took over the sitting room, he said, “I did a little research and it said a lot of the things it would have been decorated with would be natural things or homemade items.” Because of his interest in history, he said, he often hears that his designs are more historically accurate than others may be.
This year, Harris said, there was no specific theme to center his display around. He decided to focus on birch and burlap, he said, and each arrangement is in a birch container, or has birch or burlap worked in somehow. He also brought in the Maine State Bird, the Chickadee, “to complement the birch containers and create a simple, natural family Christmas for the Morses,” he said in the program.
This is the 32nd annual Christmas at Victoria Mansion. 2016 marks the 75th year that Victoria Mansion, also known as the Morse-Libby House, has been a public museum. Hours for the holiday season are Mondays, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Tuesday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Last admission is a half hour before closing. Tickets can be purchased at the mansion. The mansion is closed on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, and will close for the season on January 3rd.
Blossoms is a full service florist and gift shop. Many items found in the sitting room décor can be purchased in the shop, along with many more gifts and decorative items that evoke Christmas in Maine. The shop is located at 725 Roosevelt Trail in Windham. Visit their website at www.blossomsofwindham.com.