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Flowers, fashion and furnishings: Exploring the passions of Empress Josephine 

Josephine de Beauharnais by Keizerin der Fransen (Courtesy Wikimedia Commons)The fine taste of Joséphine de Beauharnais informed 18th and 19th century style, from couture fashion to interior design, all based on her Caribbean heritage, her narrow escape from the guillotine, and her legendary love for flowers.


On Saturday, Feb. 10 from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., garden historian Lesley Parness will present “Josephine – The Empress Gardened,” a lecture about the French empress, made possible by Somerset County Park Commission. Admission is free, but pre-registration required by Feb. 9 for the lecture at the commission's North Branch Park headquarters, 355 Milltown Road, Bridgewater.

When divorced from Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, the powerful style-maker and lifelong fashionista known as Empress Josephine focused her energies on her estate, Château de Malmaison. There, her passion for plants grew and bloomed, stopping a war, costing a fortune, setting explorers to sail and starting a floral industry that endures today.


Parness, a retired superintendent of horticultural education at New Jersey's Morris County Park Commission, has five decades of travel, academic studies and work to provide a rewarding context for her own love of plants.  She now offers illustrated lectures and hands-on workshops on topics that connect “people and plants with science and story.”


For more information and to register for the lecture, call (908) 722-1200, ext. 5721 or visit




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