Photos courtesy of Potter
With the launch of Carolyne Roehm's latest book with Clarkson Potter called Flowers, readers are in for a real hortucultural treat. Fourteen years after her first book, A Passion for Flowers, she is back to share more "floribundance", with a deeper look at her gardens through the seasons and what they yield at her hand. The over sized (gigantic in a fabulous way) book is packed with lush imagery (over three hundred photos, most photographed by Roehm with the results of her Connecticut garden) captures flowers by bloom type showcasing them in a variety of exquisite arrangements. Covering the botanical spectrum, the assortment of vibrant abundance covers daffodils, tulips, lilacs, lilly of the valley, peonies, irises, roses, clematis and dahlias, with a chapter dedicated to each. A lot of hard work and dedication goes into gardening and arranging, and it shows becoming a green thumb can yield some pretty spectacular results.
Taking a moment's pause from a flurry of book signings, I was able to get her thoughts on working with flowers and what is next for her. Here is what Roehm shared with me:
What is the best go-to arrangement when you are having guests for dinner impromptu and they are coming over that evening?
My instant go to if I have unexpected guests is to place a small fern surrounded by four silver candlesticks, or a bowl of apples or lemons which I usually have in the house for this reason. Last resort if nothing is in the house is to place a pretty tureen in the middle of the table. A good reason to have one in your collections that works with your china.
What was the biggest challenge, which arrangement took tons of practice tries to get just right?
I have been doing this for so many years that I do it instinctively ---I think the biggest challenge for those starting out is underestimating the number of flowers and filler they need. Also getting over their fear so many say I am afraid to start---but you must ---and make mistakes. A great way to learn is to get post cards from any art museum showing how painters put flowers together, the Dutch flower painters are wonderfully inspirational.
Tell those that don't know about the legendary floral artist you apprenticed with in Paris. Paint the picture of what that experience in France was like. Any secret tips to floral handling or treatment to share?
Working for Henri Moulie was a great experience I had already done so much work with flowers but the single biggest thing I learned at the time was the use of "filler" material. You have to remember at that time in the mid 90's we had just a handful of really good florists, such as Ronaldo Maia, and Renny even in a city like NYC. At that time the average florists used leather fern, wax flower and status as fill to make bouquets look larger . In Paris they used everything, lemon leaves, camellia leaves, branches of raspberries and blackberries and blueberries things that we did not use at the time. They created beautiful still-lives. When Christian Tortu came to NYC at Takashimaya then we started to get the great change and influence of the French here in NYC.
What is your favorite cheap and cheerful resource for great vases or decorative elements?
I like going to Pearl River for affordable vases.
What is your favorite arrangement in the book for color, scale, impact or ease?
My favorite arrangement is on page 205 because it represents a mix of things that I mentioned above: raspberries, viburnum berries, unripened baby apples all working together with garden roses to create a bouquet and a still life.
You have covered it all, just about. What is next for you in design?
Next in design well.... my big project is my restoring a Greek Revival house in Charleston and creating a "southern flower garden". After that I have a couple of more books I want to do.
A study in tulip variety featuring Roehm's favorites, red and whites.
Years of collecting china and vases yield a pretty astounding collection of tabletop patterns. Lilacs and tulips in a full spectrum of purple hues sit in a beautiful glass goblet as a centerpiece.
In a garden setting, the table is set in monochromatic white featuring stark white porcelain and delicate lilly of the valley.
My favorite! An abundant arrangement of pink peonies in a green glass vase read early summer.
What is more gorgeous than a just clipped arrangement of fresh June blooms? Here, she has paired peonies, rhododendron, geraniums, yellow baptista, nepeta and salvia in a free flowing robust and nature-driven arrangement.
Roses in pale peach and yellow are paired with charming pansies, raspberries and miniature apples in a dynamic mix.
The power of a single color is shown with the palest of pink roses. Ahh, beauties.