By LIZ DICKSTEINAOTTERT/The Associated PressNew York – New York’s annual Gardenia flower festival, which began in June, has attracted thousands of participants to its sunny grounds in midtown Manhattan.
On Sunday, the annual festival began with a flower display that featured more than 50 flower headings, many with the word “Gardenia” in a bold red font.
Some of the headings were so prominent they drew attention from passersby, who called out the names of the flowers.
One of the most popular displays was a mandala flower, a blue, oval flower that grows in tropical regions of Africa, Asia and Australia.
The flower’s headings included “Mandala,” “Mandarin,” “Gardening,” “Fruit” and “Bread.”
One of those headings was a flower with a white outline that had been tattooed onto the left breast of a young woman, the festival said.
The festival is a fundraiser for the Gardenia Flower Foundation, which is responsible for creating the flower displays.
The woman, who declined to give her name, said she had been going to the flower display with her family and had not noticed the headlining until Sunday.
She said she was “not a big fan” of mandalas, and didn’t know if the headliner’s name had been drawn by someone else.
“I’m really not that fond of them,” she said.
Another flower head was a small blue rose that resembled a pendant with the words “GARDEN.”
The festival’s organizer, Kristi L. Stiles, said the flower headers were the result of a “really good collaboration between the Gardenias Foundation and Gardenia and the Gardenias and Gardeniastanas and their local artisans.”
She said the festival’s “experience has shown us that we need more diversity and more representation in the art of flower display.”
In an interview on Saturday with ABC News, Liles said she hoped the festival would continue as a celebration of the flower and its beauty, but she also said the headliners had drawn attention to their gender and sexual orientation.
“There’s nothing wrong with a woman who wants to be a flower and wants to have a flower tattooed on her body,” Liles told ABC News.
“The people who are doing it are doing what they feel is appropriate, and I think that’s OK.”
A Gardenia spokeswoman said Sunday that the festival is “a great event for the whole family, including children and adults.”
The spokeswoman said the organization had not received any complaints from Gardenia participants or anyone else.
Gardeniastana, the largest garden in the United States, was founded in 1893 by a group of American artists, artists and intellectuals, including artist John Maynard Keynes and poet Oscar Wilde.
Gardens in some parts of Africa and Asia also feature mandalahs, a plant with a pink-and-white flower head that is often found in tropical climates, including in Kenya, Tanzania and Sri Lanka.