On Flowers: Lessons from an Accidental Florist
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“If coffee tables could make . . . wish lists, [this book] would certainly be on them.”
—Better Homes & Gardens
A singular, personal celebration of the beauty and possibilities of nature
Amy Merrick is a rare and special kind of artist who uses flowers to help us see the familiar in a completely new way. Her gift is to revel in the unexpected—like a sunny spring arrangement housed in a paper coffee cup—and to overturn preconceptions, whether she’s transforming a bouquet of supermarket carnations into a breathtaking centerpiece or elevating wild and weedy blooms foraged from city sidewalks. She uses the beauty that is waiting to be discovered all around us—in leaves, branches, seedpods, a fallen blossom—to tell a story of time and place.
Merrick begins On Flowers with a primer containing all her hard-won secrets on the art of flower arranging, from selecting materials to mastering pleasing proportions. Then she brings readers along on her journey, with observations on flowers in New York City and at her family’s summer home in rural New Hampshire, working on a flower farm off the coast of Washington State, and studying ikebana in a jewel-box flower shop in Kyoto. We learn how to send flowers like a florist, and how to arrange them like a farm girl. We discover the poignancy in humble wildflowers, and also celebrate the luxury of fragrant blousy blooms. Collected here is an anthology of floral inspiration, a love letter to nature by an exceptional, accidental florist.
From the Publisher
FEATURING GORGEOUS PHOTOS OF MERRICK’S EXCEPTIONAL ARRANGEMENTS
DOZENS OF HOW-TOS, INCLUDING: ARRANGING FLOWERS LIKE A FARM GIRL
1. Pick the flowers yourself, even if it means forgoing big, showy blooms.
2. Look for interesting foliage that’s nuanced in color, beyond only green.
3. Use flowering herbs, vegetables, and all sorts of textural elements.
4. Include unopened buds, full blooms, and seedpods all from the same flower for botanical interest.
5. Don’t fuss. Farm girls swish everything together loosely without too much worry.
6. Plop a tied bouquet in a mason jar or old pitcher on the kitchen table.
7. Invite a friend over for a slice of pie, and send them home with the flowers. It’s the neighborly thing to do.
A GUIDE TO THE BEST MUSEUMS AROUND THE WORLD TO VISIT IF YOU LOVE FLOWERS, INCLUDING:
MARIANNE NORTH GALLERY AT KEW: This eye-popping gallery in Surrey, UK, displays richly painted tropical flower portraits captured in their native landscapes by the intrepid Victorian traveler and botanical artist Marianne North.
ISABELLA STEWART GARDNER MUSEUM: An enchanting art museum and courtyard garden in Boston disguised as the most exquisite life-size dollhouse, complete with singing canaries to provide a natural sound track.
NAMI KAWA CLOISONNÉ MUSEUM : A tiny museum for tiny flowers, this house museum in Kyoto, Japan is the workshop, home, and garden of nineteenth- century cloisonné artist Namikawa Yasuyuki.
NEUE GALERIE: This jewel box of a museum, located in New York City, is perhaps the most elegantly proportioned and presented in the world. Come for the superlative collection of Austrian and German art, but linger over the sublime lobby flower arrangements.
AN ILLUSTRATED GUIDE TO ARRANGING BASICS
1. PREPARATION OF MATERIALS
Choose a vase. Insert a frog or other supporting structure if needed. Fill the vase with water. Condition your flowers by removing any leaves that fall below the vase waterline, or that will detract from your arrangement.
2. STRUCTURAL FOUNDATION
Use leaves, branches, or a substantial mass of flowers to build your overall shape. By starting with sturdy stems, you create a firm base to support more delicate flowers.
3. FOCAL FLOWERS
These are the most eye-catching blooms. Try placing one directly on the edge of the vase for both visual and mechanical stability. By cutting them to different lengths, you add dimension and levels to an arrangement. Once you have placed the focal flowers, smaller supporting flowers can be used to fill out your vase.
4. GESTURAL FLOURISH
For levity and movement, add something unexpected: a wisp of tall, feathery grass; a tendril of vines; or a pair of tiny blooms dancing above a display. This finishing touch is a perfect chance to make a final splash with scale, providing a sense of whimsy with delicate stems that would otherwise be overwhelmed in an arrangement.