Garden Designers’ Roundtable: Bouquets to Art

On February 13th, I went grocery shopping on my way home from work.  Right away I noticed things seemed different in the store.

 Men.  There were lots of men.

Oh yeah, tomorrow’s Valentine’s, I realized.  So there were the men– old & young, fat & thin, hirsute & hairless, all kinds — buying flower bouquets for their sweethearts.  They all looked slightly bewildered, and they were all purchasing either Valentine’s Day Default Gift #1 — Red Roses with Baby’s Breath in a Plastic Sleeve for the Big Spenders — or Valentine’s Day Default Gift #2 — Pink Carnations in a Plastic Sleeve for the more frugal/slightly less-committed set.

I thought, awwww, how cute.  Until I realized how much they were clogging up the checkout lanes, and then I was like, get a move-on, you unimaginative bunch of lemmings! 


“Surprise! I put zero thought into your gift!”

Now, if you personally gave or received red roses or pink carnations this Valentine’s Day, pardon my snobbery.  Don’t get me wrong, I love getting any kind of bouquet from my husband (and full confession: this year I bought him a heart-shaped box of chocolate, talk about lemming) but usually I’m a fan of more creative and personalized gestures of love.

Anyway, I bring all this up because flower arrangements and floral design have been on my mind lately.  Last fall I purchased the extraordinary book Bringing Nature Home  by Ngoc Ming Ngo and Nicolette Owen, and it has quickly become the book I turn to when I need to get to a Happy Place quickly.  I will present you with a couple of the stunning images from this book because I bet not all of you have seen it:




Needless to say, these are not Your Boyfriend’s Pink Carnations.  But doesn’t it make you feel better just to look at these pictures?  I also have my eye on a couple of other floral arranging books that look great — Garden Bouquets and Beyond, by Suzy Bales, and The 50-Mile Bouquet, by Debra Prinzing.

As if I need another hobby.  In addition to gardening, I’ve lately been tinkering around with both sewing and carpentry, so really, I need to get a grip.  Still, I’ve already signed up with my sister for a one day floral design workshop at a local florist, so too late now.

Now, if you want to take a peek at Floral Design brought to its most glorious level, check out what will be happening soon at the de Young gallery in San Francisco.  Every year this art gallery brings in talented floral designers who create arrangements that “pay tribute to or draw inspiration from” various pieces of art in the gallery.  The exhibit is called “Bouquets to Art” and this year it runs from March 19-23.  Here is a sneak preview from the gallery’s website for this year’s exhibition:


In the image above, not only does the arrangement’s structure imitate the carved tablet behind it, but the warm colors also seem to be inspired from the tablet’s earthy tones.


The blue velvet draped at the base of this arrangement mimics the woman’s gown in the painting, and the pink and white flowers totally match her skin.  My husband could give me this rose arrangement for Valentine’s Day and I would be fine with it.


Don’t you just love the gorgeous swoop of stems and flowers spilling out of this arrangement?  It totally captures the curve of the woman’s cape-thingee falling off her shoulder.

I love it when a practitioner of one art or craft draws inspiration from another.  How about entire gardens inspired by fine paintings and sculpture?  And vice-versa. How about a piece of pottery based on a symphony?  A tapestry based on a garden?  A poem based on a sculpture?  A couture dress based on a great work of architecture?  A line of massed-produced children’s toys based on a Disney film?  No, no, scratch that last one.

But it kinda makes my head spin to think about the possibilities.  What’s great is that, as I have gotten older and realized that I will probably never master even one art form, I don’t mind so much the idea of being a Perpetual Novice.  I am content just to make enthusiastic attempts and enjoy the process, all the while feeling true awe and inspiration from the real artists out there.

Sooo…floral design?  Bring it on!

And long live the Arts!  Long live Romance!

Most importantly, Long live Men Bearing Pink Carnations!

Now please check out what my fellow Roundtablers have to say about Romance and the Garden:

Lesley Hegarty & Robert Webber : Hegarty Webber Partnership : Bristol, UK

David Cristiani : The Desert Edge : Albuquerque, NM

Debbie Roberts : A Garden of Possibilities : Stamford, CT

Deborah Silver : Dirt Simple : Detroit, MI

Jocelyn Chilvers : The Art Garden : Denver, CO

17 thoughts on “Garden Designers’ Roundtable: Bouquets to Art

  1. I must investigate these books more. My mom has been a garden club member and floral designer (one of her hobbies) for many years now, so these have wonderful gift potential. I’d love a road trip to San Francisco to the museum, but sadly will have to settle for the virtual visit since our break doesn’t start until the following week. Thanks as well for another way to get to a happy place!

    • Wouldn’t it be great to go, Karyn? There are actually many more Bouquets to Art images online, from prior years. Just google it. We need to arrange another cohort excursion soon!

  2. Pingback: Romance! | Garden Designers Roundtable

  3. Pingback: Garden Designers Roundtable ~ Romance | A Garden of Possibilities

    • Awesome idea, Jocelyn. The key there, I would imagine, is to keep it simple & not to get too tied down in fussy combinations. I would like to take up that challenge myself!

  4. The first image, without reading the caption or any text, hinted at yet another humorous Mary Masterpiece! Glad I wasn’t sipping coffee when I saw it, or I would have made a mess. 2/13 (and 2/14) in stores are indeed a man’s world…but be nice, not all of it is thoughtless. Maybe it’s not knowing what to do among our stressed world? Bravo on the inter-related elements or fields that contribute so much to mood and romance!

  5. My husband is patting himself on the back because he bought me YELLOW roses! At least he made the big spender category. You should definitely check out Debra Prinzing’s book that just came out, “Slow Flowers: Four Seasons of Locally Grown Bouquets.” I had a chance to see it at the Northwest Flower and Garden Show last week and it is gorgeous, with lots of ideas for seasonal bouquets.

  6. I am happy when Buck brings me roses. Never a single red rose though. A bunch of roses. The most romantic part-he has learned to recut the stems, and put them in warmish water to condition them. There’s the real romance. Your beginning photrographs remind me a little of the flowers at Saipua. You might enjoy her blog. Every post is fraught with romance. Thanks for this-I do love cut flowers.

  7. Mary, I’ve never heard of the flower design book, Bringing Nature Home, but it looks intriguing. I like the way the arrangements are laid out in a step by step fashion. My arrangements always look like a bunch of flowers plopped into a vase. Clearly I need the help of some book, any book, so I’ll start with one of the ones you mentioned.

  8. You nailed February 13th with your description, and although I like to think myself above such foolery, I annually renew my membership in the Lemming club. 🙂

    We have a similar event to the one you describe at the de Young Gallery, called Fine Art and Flowers, at The Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford CT. A very interesting event, at which I have had the privilidge to both sponsor and speak. The painting I sponsored was entitled “The Old Man and Death”. A curious choice they made for me…

    BTW, bonus points for using “hirsute” in a sentence! 😉

  9. Pingback: The Garden Designer's Roundtable: Romance - Ιστολόγιο

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