There was a time in the not so distant past when a dozen red roses was the universal symbol of floral indulgence. Which meant that a call to a florist almost anywhere in the world would yield a consistent, if predictable, result. That standard has gone the way of baby’s breath and carnations. Floral designers the world over now work diligently to create arrangements that reflect their local markets, preferred imports, and personal style. Eighteen of the best share their stories and divulge their sources.
Absolute Flowers and Home
Hayley Newstead isn’t kidding when she calls herself a flower snob. “I don’t like daisies or gerberas. Or baby’s breath. Or ginger lilies. You won’t find any of these in the shop—ever,” she says with half a laugh. Instead Newstead ties white orchids in leather ribbon or puts them in a simple pot with polished pebbles over moss. Or she arranges burnt-orange calla lilies in tightly clustered—but never cramped—arrangements. In 2006 Newstead opened up the storefront next door as a space for selling vases, home accessories, cushions, and furniture.
Minimum order, $70. Delivery area: London. At 14 Clifton Rd., Maida Vale; 44-20/7286-1155.
Designers here embody thoughtful restraint, arranging a single green anthurium in a black wax vase or eucharis and lotus seeds in a stone bowl. The shop is part of the three-floor pan-Armani shopping experience called Via Manzoni 31. With his office just two blocks away, Armani is in the store several times a month and does occasionally oversee the floral work himself.
No minimum. Delivery area: Milan and where freshness permits. At 31 Via Manzoni; 39-02/6231-2640; armani.com.
Pastore & Tjader
From their small shop in a medieval building in the Monti district—the oldest in Rome—designers Eleanore Pastore and Susanne Tjader create loosely tailored arrangements that emphasize peonies, ranunculus, or dark red roses. “We like clients to receive flowers that look as they do in nature,” says Pastore. Though she believes some blooms should remain there: “I love to see sunflowers in a field when I’m driving in the car and listening to loud music. But I don’t want them in an arrangement.” Tulips, by the way, are also not in favor.
No Minimum order. Delivery area: Greater Rome. At 62A Via della Madonna dei Monti; 39-06/4782-2332; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Emmanuel Sammartino organizes the flowers in his shop not by species but by a hierarchy of scents: the lemonish, the spicy, the sugary. He refuses to use anything imported, relying on in-season flowers from the surrounding Ile de France. He also shuns the word “arrangement.” “It suggests overconstruction,” he says. “We model our work on the way flowers grow in a garden or forest.”
No Minimum order. Delivery area: Greater Paris. At 9 Rue Madame; 33-1/42-84-03-00.
This store has been operating from its Rue Royale location since 1845. In step with its deep Parisian roots, Lachaume is uncompromisingly classic in style. Bouquets arrive in simple glass vases only—no leaf-wrapped containers, no pebbles, no moss. That includes the three-foot-stem red and white roses Lachaume is most famous for. The shop uses blooms primarily from France and Italy, although Stephanie Primet, store manager and granddaughter of owner Madame Giuseppina Callegari, points out, “We have special relationships with small producers near Paris who give us their whole production of certain flowers.” In other words, there are blooms here you won’t find anywhere else.
Minimum order, $150. Delivery area: Greater Paris and suburbs. At 10 Rue Royale; 33-1/42-60-59-74; email@example.com.
Menno Kroon never cuts the stems of the multicolored Dutch tulips or Ecuadoran roses in his wild arrangements less than eight inches long; this helps the bouquet last longer. Kroon is all about the details and the experience. “I talk to the clients,” he says. “I must understand their tastes. Five years from now I want them to still remember the flowers from Menno Kroon.” His shop, in the SoHo-like south of Amsterdam, is a constantly reinvented atelier—it can have a stark black-and-white scheme one month and be colorful and traditional the next.
The team here is made up of Dutch, French, and Japanese designers, so it makes sense that the house style is classically European with a Japanese flourish. “Other designers,” says Tokyo-based event producer Kazko Egawa, “try constantly to imitate U.Goto.” With four locations, including an enormous shop in the Roppongi district, it’s a wonder there is room for anybody else.
Minimum order, $40. Delivery area: All of Japan. At Goto Bldg., First Fl., 5-1-3 Roppongi, Minato-ku; 81-3/ 3408-8211; gotohanaten.co.jp.
Blooms ’N’ Blossoms
Many are suspect of the hotel-based florist, believing that a city’s true flower genius must be operating out of a tiny shop just around the corner. Blooms ’n’ Blossoms, however—located in the InterContinental and the Grand Hyatt—contradicts that notion with its artful use of bent grasses and leaves in subtly colored arrangements, which are delivered in the florist’s signature shallow green vases.
This is a tough one: New York is literally abloom with first-rate florists, probably more than any other place in the world. Still, these three are consistently at the top of the list. L’Olivier
Frustrated that he couldn’t find quality floral arrangements for his American clients, Pierre Cardin sent his young floral designer to New York to open a shop. Some 20 years later Olivier Giugni remembers his boss’s mandate to “show the American people how the French do flowers.” Giugni came to Manhattan and never left. A pioneer of the leaf-wrapped vase (invented to beautify as well as to hide murky water), Giugni still often swaddles containers in South African philodendron. Arrangements range from the traditional—gentle gradations of color across a bouquet of roses—–to the unconventional: stems of rosemary, branches of bay leaf, sprigs of mint, or scented geraniums. “The work I do isn’t flat,” says Giugni. “It’s not one flower on the left and one on the right. We try to give an arrangement movement. I think of it as building a house.”
Minimum order, $85. Delivery area: Greater New York (including New Jersey, Long Island, Connecticut). At 19 E. 76th St.; 212-774-7676; lolivier.com.
Bill Blass was one of the first people to see Miho Kosuda’s Rainbow of Roses ($250–$500), a dense ball that glides almost imperceptibly from white to yellow to red. (All the flowers are organic, grown at 6,500 feet by a single Ecuadoran producer.) Blass liked it so much, he asked her to deliver one to Nancy Reagan and later to Princess Diana, telling Kosuda “I want to send something that looks American.” And there is a quintessentially U.S.A. quality to the Japanese-born designer’s Rainbow: It’s bold, lush, abundant. For Kosuda, the message is more universal. “I like something that looks so fresh,” she says, “you just want to eat it.”
Minimum order, $75. Delivery area: Manhattan. At 310 E. 44th St.; 212-922-9122.
This is a mother-daughter operation, which may ex- plain why Belle Fleur has become the go-to florist for New York weddings. “My mom has a classic, sophisticated palette,” Meredith Waga Perez says. “Mine is more fashion-forward.” The resulting arrangements arrive in keepsake containers the duo find on their travels around the world. They are wrapped in delicately perfumed tissue paper, and the sender’s message is written in calligraphy on a note card of heavy stock. In addition to presentation, Belle Fleur dotes on peonies, the house favorite, arranging them in its trademark tight clusters with accents of ranunculus or sweet peas.
Minimum order, $75. Delivery area: Greater New York. At 134 Fifth Ave.; 212-254-8703; bellefleurny.com.
The Velvet Garden
Kimm Birkicht thinks too much color can be distracting. She prefers to work in a nearly monochromatic palette of rust, orange, and red. Or to arrange lime-green orchids in a vessel filled with rocks. “We’ve kind of perfected the Zen look here,” says Birkicht. “We create little art pieces, things that slow us down.”
Minimum order, $75. Delivery area: L.A. County. At 8327 W. Third St.; 323-852-1766; thevelvetgarden.com.
He has become so well known for his red-and-white bunches of roses, peonies, and orchids that Buterbaugh calls the arrangement “our version of a black Chanel suit.” Another signature is the fabric-covered containers created by on-staff “tailors” out of leather—even snakeskin.
Minimum order, $100. Delivery area: Within 100 miles of L.A. At the Four Seasons Hotel at Beverly Hills, 300 S. Doheny Dr.; 310-247-7120; ericbuterbaugh.com.
Until recently minimalism reigned in Boston, but John LaRoche welcomes a return to opulence. “I’m working now with more luxurious, velvety elements,” he says. At Boston’s recently opened Liberty Hotel—a former prison with a 90-foot rotunda in the lobby—LaRoche hand-tied cascading garlands of cymbidium orchids to exposed brick walls. For smaller spaces, he’ll place Dark Milva roses in containers made of two layers of glass with black beans or split peas between.
Minimum order, $85. Delivery area: Boston. At 839 Albany St.; 617-442-0900; blueguava.com.
Owner Tony Polega cultivates his own perennials and woody plants and travels around the Midwest to collect homegrown elements like green tumbleweed. “It smells like sage, I promise,” says Polega. “Another time we pulled a dead birch tree out of the ground, flipped it over to see the gnarly, twisted roots, and made an upside-down birch tree.” But if Polega is wont to play with form, the work he does in his 6,000-square-foot studio is hardly gimmicky. He’s fluent in classic French and English floral styles; he just likes to give them a little midwestern touch.
Minimum order, $80. Delivery area: Greater Chicago. At 2000 W. Carroll Ave., Ste. 104; 312-733-4580; firstname.lastname@example.org.
There’s no sign outside Duane Murrell’s studio, and a large portion of his business involves keeping the homes of longtime clients filled with fresh flowers, but his crisp and clean arrangements are available for delivery: a glass bowl full of tulips or New Zealand peonies, a bundle of two-foot-stem French tulips or double white Casablanca lilies. The only accompaniment to the flowers is their own foliage. Murrell has been known to visit private homes to collect a client’s preferred container—an antique Lalique vase, for example—that he then returns filled with fresh flowers.
Minimum order, $100. Delivery area: Palm Beach and West Palm Beach. 561-659-1466.
The Cutting Garden
The Cutting Garden sees the flower world in two camps: There is the compact, typically monochromatic New York school. Then there’s the Cutting Garden’s Texas style. A typical arrangement of calla lilies, snapdragons, and orchids with flowering quince branches might reach five feet tall. “In Houston,” says owner David Gerst, “bigger is better.”
Minimum order, $50. Delivery area: Greater Houston. At 1846 Westheimer; 713-465-9145; mycutting garden.com.
To Market, To Market
The Amsterdam flower market has a spectacular array of fresh blooms. The Paris market requires a ticket just to get in. But floral designers consistently point to the stretch of 28th Street between Sixth and Seventh avenues in Manhattan. Mostly “wholesale-only” outfits, they are still happy to sell to the public. Olivier Giugni of L’Olivier comes to the market every day or two. He took an early-morning walk (stores open at 4 a.m.) through the market to share his sources. Dutch Flower Line (148 W. 28th St.; 212-727-8600) is the place for ranunculus and New Zealand or Israeli peonies. Empire Cut Flowers (151 W. 28th St.; 212-714-2771) is where he finds things like red ginger, and G. Page (120 W. 28th St.; 212-741-8928) is for roses. Giugni sources Florida orchids for private homes and for Restaurant Daniel from Holiday Flower & Plant (118 W. 28th St.; 212-675-4300). The branch experts? US Evergreen (805 Sixth Ave.; 212-741-5300) for Oregonian pussy willow, pink and white New Jersey quince, birch, and wisteria. Major Wholesale Florist (41 W. 28th St.; 212-686-0368) stocks forsythia, ferns, and cedar. And the vases he uses are all from B&J Florist Supply (103 W. 28th St.; 212-564-6086). “You can always bargain in the market,” says Giugni. “You say, ‘Oh yeah? You know, the guy down the street told me he’d give me that bunch for $90.’ ”
Duane Murrell of Palm Beach’s VM Flowers says 90 percent of his business is supplying weekly flowers to his regular clients. For one customer, he does regular installations of roses in the master bedroom, freesia on the nightstand, and guest room flowers in case of a pop-in. For another, he rotates plants so the client’s home is always blooming with orchids. But demand for home decor services has grown so great that designers have become trusted advisors on home decor matters well beyond flowers. Prices, naturally, vary widely. Murrell says his fee for private homes begins at several hundreds of dollars and quickly climbs into the thousands. “Clients will say, ‘We’re having ten for dinner, so can you do a really fun table?’ ” says L.A.’s Eric Buterbaugh. “I’ll choose everything from the silver and dishes to even the chef.” Belle Fleur sends its Mayan Tuberose–scented candle along with weekly flowers for one client’s bedroom and the Orange Blossom Pomegranate for the dining room (about $300). And for the ultimate in home-flower delivery, ZeZé Flowers in New York (212-753-7767) will select, install, and even remove your Christmas tree. The price? $4,000.
The Orchid Grower
Jose Exposito of Miami’s Soroa Orchids can deliver his plants anywhere, from Kalamazoo to China. “We have perfected the art of shipping orchids,” he says, “and when they arrive, they look as if we’ve just pulled them off our bench.” The price of a simple white phalaenopsis (including delivery) begins at $60. Exposito cultivates the classics as well as variations: say, a miniature purple cattleya or a one-of-a-kind species he has created himself. For $500 Exposito will register one of his newly hybridized species of orchids with the Royal Horticultural Society in England in any name desired. And yes, Exposito also has an orchid-of-the-month club. At 25750 S.W. 177 Ave., Homestead, Florida; 305-247-2566; soroa.com.