The Secret Garden

Miho Kosuda's flower shop

Speedwalking New York-style down East 44th Street, it's easy to miss Miho Kosuda's flower shop on the ground floor of a prewar residential building. "I never wanted a big show around my flowers," says Kosuda, who opened her shop in 1991. Tucked away from the skyscrapers and concrete, she enjoys working in two rooms exploding with colors and scents—too many different varieties of flowers to guess at a number. Having grown up in Tokyo, she remembers how much the cherry trees around a lake near her home impressed her at blossom time. "I was always curious about flowers—my eyes were drawn to them," she says. "But opening a flower shop never crossed my mind, and if I had not moved to the United States I probably never would have." Her biggest supporter from the beginning was designer Bill Blass, who recognized her gift immediately. "He encouraged me, and I learned so much from him," she says. It was for Blass that she created her largest arrangement to date: 660 mango-colored calla lilies. When he started decorating his runways with flowers, Blass called on Kosuda to supply her meticulous arrangements to complement his collection.

At the outset, familiarizing customers with her personal style proved to be a challenge. Sometimes a client would ask for a particular arrangement and Kosuda would oblige but send one of her own along as well. "That way clients could decide which one they liked better," she says, "and many times they called to tell me that they had used mine."

Now, nine years later, everyone recognizes her unique creations, particularly her spectacular rose arrangements. For one bouquet Kosuda uses roses of dramatically different shapes and sizes. Usually inspired by a single color scheme, she bundles miniature, high-centered, and even large rosette-shaped roses together, creating a delicate ensemble of textures and hues. ("You can't imagine how many different shades of red exist.") Another "bouquet" is made of one rose that Kosuda constructs herself. Working for more than two hours with wire and countless petals of different roses, she builds and shapes an original flower—one perfect rose—until it's the size of a small melon. Yet she insists that her arrangement philosophy is simple, saying, "I believe in one type of flower and a single color scheme." Right now, she says, darker colors are trendy, from green to almost black. Even though Kosuda's vases are filled with exotic flowers such as tall New Zealand peonies and bright bouvardias, she prefers classical flowers. "I think English garden flowers are very elegant," she says, citing the antique-looking Evelyn rose and hollyhocks from Holland as among her favorites.

Most of all, Kosuda insists on top quality. Every morning she goes to the market (sometimes as early as 4 a.m.) and personally selects her flowers, which come from Ecuador, the Netherlands, New Zealand,and South Africa, among other countries. (Her stunning orchids, however, come from upstate New York and New Jersey, because they are too delicate to travel.) "When I work," she says, "I never count the flowers. I am only interested in the beauty of the arrangement." Whether she is donating flowers to hospitals (which she has done since she opened), sending bouquets to an illustrious client (Calvin Klein, Ivana Trump), or designing arrangements for a socialite's home, Kosuda's prime concern is the recipient. "My sister once said, 'Miho, your flowers are like little ambassadors,' and that's true. They speak for me."

By appointment only. Arrangements delivered in New York City only. If transporting by car outside New York, Kosuda recommends a trip of no longer than two and a half hours. Wedding bouquets can be shipped anywhere in the U.S. via Federal Express. 310 East 44th Street, New York, NY 10017; 212-922-9122.