Author(s): J.Barry Ferguson
J Barry Ferguson is the quintessential example of the caption, "New Zealand boy done good in New York." His first claim to fame may have been as Wellington's number one square dance caller in 1951, and his first floral business was on Hereford Street in Christchurch, but it was on Fifth Avenue that he really made his name. From his work as long-time curator of Greenacre Park, a lunch hour haven for Manhattanites, to his lavish floral decorations for highly visible events such as the re-opening of Central Park Zoo, or private functions like David and Peggy Rockefeller's fiftieth wedding anniversary, his client list included many of the city's most famous names and institutions. Having retired to the tranquil coastline of Northland, Barry has produced a fascinating memoir that illustrates how a combination of timing, good fortune and hard work, plus plenty of chutzpa, allowed him to seize unique opportunities, whether it was running a theatre company in Stockholm or a business designing flowers and decor for special events in Manhattan.
Wellington born and schooled in Dunedin, J Barry Ferguson opened a shop in Christchurch in 1953. But it was during his four decades in New York that he made a name for himself as a garden, event decor and floral designer, with an impressive list of Manhattan clients including David Rockefeller, Billy Joel, Malcolm Forbes, the Plaza Hotel and the Metropolitan Museum. His first book, Living with Flowers (Rizzoli), sold 35,000 copies and was honored with the Quill & Trowel Award by the Garden Writers Association of America. Barry himself received recognition for his creative contribution to the floral design field in 1988 as the first recipient of the Frances Jones Poetker Award of the American Horticultural Society. He retired back to New Zealand, and now lives in Mahurangi West, just North of Auckland.