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Helen Hornberger  Search this
Copper, oil paint
Overall: 12 3/4 in. (32.4 cm)
Stem: 9 3/4 in. (24.8 cm)
Flower: 3 in. (7.6 cm)
Artificial flowers and trees
United States
Artist, Helen Hornberger, revived the techniques of French tole to create naturalistic representations of the state flowers. The artist used thin copper sheets as her base, and painted them with oil paint in the natural colors of the blossoms and leaves of the Coast Rhododendron (Rhododendron macrophyllum). The stem is made from twisted wires which each connect to the oblong leaves and cluster of marled pink and white tubular blossoms. From the center of each blossom a cluster of white and brown curly cues form the stamen.
Label Text:
The Congress of Representative Women at the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893 in Chicago proposed that each U.S. state and territory select a flower to represent their state in the “National Garland of Flowers.” This resulted in the National Floral Emblem Society. Each state has adopted to represent the state and its people based on their importance to the state’s history, economy, folklore, or native varieties. Tole artist Helen Hornberger created each artificial flower representing each state to create for a bouquet displaying America’s floral diversity.
WASHINGTON: The Coast Rhododendron (Rhododendron macrophyllum) was designated the official state flower of Washington in 1959. This flower was selected as the state flower much earlier, when in 1892, the women of Washington organized a statewide election to select a state flower. Six flowers were considered, and the favorites—the Coast Rhododendron and the Clover—went head to head in the voting booths for the opportunity to represent the State of Washington at the 1983 Chicago World’s Fair. Out of more than 15,000 ballots cast, the Coast Rhododendron emerged the victor. The state legislature did not officially sanction it as the official Washington state flower for nearly seven decades, until 1959. Washington’s state flower is known as the “King of the Shrubs.” While it is typically 6-8 feet tall at maturity, it can reach heights of 30 feet. In the spring, the Coast Rhododendron blooms in various shades of pink, and occasionally white, large, tubular blossoms. It grows naturally along forest edges and in clearings, and it can survive elevations up to 4,000 feet. The Coast Rhododendron’s range extends from British Columbia to Monterey, California, and in isolated regions of the Cascade Mountain Ranges, but it does not grow east of the Cascade Mountains. Therefore, if residents of the eastern portion of Washington want to see their state flower, they must travel to the coastal regions of the state. While they may look, they may not pick a flower as a souvenir. The Coast Rhododendron is highly prized in the Evergreen State, and it is prohibited to pick them in the wild.
copper  Search this
tôle  Search this
Artificial flowers  Search this
crafts  Search this
emblems (symbols)  Search this
flowers (plants)  Search this
Washington  Search this
Credit Line:
Smithsonian Gardens, Horticultural Artifacts Collection. Gift of Helen Hornberger.
Accession number:
Restrictions & Rights:
Usage conditions apply
See more items in:
Horticultural Artifacts Collection
Data Source:
Smithsonian Gardens