Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Valentine Bouquet: Love as an Aesthetic

A Valentine's Day bouquet should be as thoughtful as the card you select and unique as the sentiment your write in it.  Commercial bouquets for Valentine’s Day typically are the standard cellophane wrapped uniform dozen or two of fragrant less roses grouped with baby’s breath and simple greens that make one resent buying such a lack luster bouquet to celebrate the romance of the day.  Did you know many of these commercial grab and go super market bouquets or the arrangements offered on the 1-800 wire services have been cut more than a week before,  boxed out of water and shipped across continents, then trucked to a local commercial venues to be purchased by some love struck suitor who is simply trying to execute the traditional expected romantic gesture of giving red roses to their beloved. While the gesture is romantic,  these standard holiday bouquets are definitely not, and are often lack luster, uniform, and even sometimes a disappointment, when they fade only after a couple of days.  A friend’s husband asked me simply, “What is the difference between your bouquets and a Costco bouquet of roses besides quantity and price? “ The answer I gave him is that at  Costco or the supermarket one generally purchases uniform roses as describe above and not a unique creative expression conveyed through an artful aesthetic of sensory, unusual, fresh fragrant flowers that are locally grown.  Commercial bouquets generally do not speak of beauty, vitality, and most especially romance and love that beautiful fresh and locally grown flowers convey in their variety.
A Valentine bouquet should be a sumptuous and sensory gesture that conveys love and romance.  A Valentine bouquet should absolutely reflect the idea of romantic love--just as the lace and papery Valentine cards do or velvety hear-shape boxes of candy do to celebrate the sentiment. Giving locally grown seasonal flowers adorned in rich, textures of bold sultry ribbons will be as unique and unforgettable expression of your love.  Valentine flowers should be presented with an aesthetic of romance:  fresh, fragrant, rich in color and texture and artfully arranged with sumptuous satin ribbons and placed beautiful vessels or wrapped in beautiful cellphones and papers.   Most of my Valentine bouquets are inspire by the vintage Valentine’s cards my parents presented to me as gifts over the years, as the day of romance  is also my birthday. Inspired by these rich lacey and papery vintage cards, my Valentine’s bouquets try to emulate these beautiful cards in their rich color and textures  expressed in abundance  and variety of seasonal flowers including: tulips, anemones, ranunculus, lily of the valley, and even daffodils and narcissus.  I often include some greenhouse roses which are grown sustainably because  the rose will always be  the quintessential icon of love, event though  it is not abundant seasonal flower of  Northern California.  I do include  roses grown locally and sustainably in greenhouses and include bouquets with flowers grown in my cottage garden and on organic local flower farms.  Bouquets and Arrangements with unusual and seasonal flowers that are fragrant and colorful and adorned with sumptuous ribbons will convey romance and speak volumes to your beloved.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Seasonal Gifts from the Garden

Wintertime bouquets are some of my favorite because I enjoy the challenge of designing with limited seasonal offerings that can be found in my garden and the open space behind my home. Foraging for the gifts of nature during this barren season is half the fun, especially when bright berries and green evergreens pop with color in the grey winter landscape.


Pomegranates and pine cones add whimsy to almost any holiday bouquet or decoration. Pomegranates from my garden are an ornamental I often add into wreath design or to add bold natural pops of color in tablescape design. Pine cones add rich texture and fragrance to floral display.

A new favorite I adore using in my l floral design this season are fig and artichoke leaves. Both add interesting new green textural elements for the winter design vocabulary and makes for an interesting variation form the swags of traditional evergreens that are so much a part of the season.

I love my garden for its seasonal gifts, especially in Winter. <3

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!

Today's Bouquet celebrates the abundance of the season with flowers grown sustainably in my garden and on local farms in the Bay Area! 

Wishing our family, friends, clients, and community a wonderful celebration of the gifts of the season! Maya

Monday, September 1, 2014

Exploring a Secret Garden in Venice with Tudy Samartini

Flowers & Fabric at the gardens of the Fortuny Factory and Showroom

On my first visit to Venice, Italy, I had the rare opportunity to tour gardens on the island of Giudecca with Tudy Sammartini, the celebrated historian, landscape designer, and author of The Secret Gardens of Venice and Verdant Venice.  Away from the mobs of tourists, Tudy introduced us to the quite edges of Venice where we discovered a silent natural world of graceful walled-off gardens of the palazzi.

Tudy’s intimate knowledge of Venice inspired a large part of her life as historian, landscape designer, and preservationist of this hidden natural world among the alleyways and canals of this magnificent city built upon water. Exploring these gardens with her really brought to life the special and unique qualities of Venice both past and present.
In Venice, gardens were a rarity owing to the limitations of a city and reflected the prestige of their owners. Although many of these gardens changed owners and form, today they still remain graceful private spaces and quiet refuge from the marvelous theater of Venice. Today many of the gardens still exist and are being restored by Tudy's creative talent and restoration efforts.

One of my favorite gardens we visited with Tudy was at the world famous fabric factory of Mariano Fortuny (1871-1949). This magnificent garden is hidden behind an industrial brick façade of the Fortuny factory.  Fortuny was a celebrated Spanish artist, painter, designer, and stylist. He created innovative dyes, printing and the manufacturing of fabrics.

Fortuny was an innovator of silk and velvet fabrics known for impressions of carved relief. Many of his fabrics reflect an influence of ancient motifs, Morris prints and botanical designs. Fortuny lived in Venice during his last years, and here created an exclusive fabric factory in 1919, which is still in use today. Many of the varieties of plants and flowers in this master garden inspired some of Fortuny’s most innovative and beautiful fabric designs.  
Thanks to the restoration efforts of Tudy, this large historic garden has been beautifully restored, and still inspires design of the Fortuny fabrics created today.
Formal in its geometry and lined with boxwood, romantic elements abound in this grand garden; complete with rose covered arbors, ivy covered brick walls and marble statuary and benches. One would never guess that such a large parcel was hidden behind the factory's facade complete with towering magnolias, ornamental pomegranate trees and a large swimming pool anchoring the rear of the garden. The graceful draping wisteria and grape vine covered arbors softened and offered a balance to the hard geometry of the sculpted  boxwoods and the brick walls of the factory. After our tour of the garden, we were invited into the exclusive showroom to see the rich and sumptuous fabrics that are still produced and inspired by this wonderful garden today.
Visits to the factory are not permitted in order to maintain the secrets of production but the showroom and garden are accessible by appointment only or with Tudy Sanmartini who has been an official guide in Venice since1969. Tudy has become quite a celebrity in luxury travel articles which feature her many gardens and work. My family and I were lucky to meet her and over a wonderful lunch with a view of St. Mark Tower across the water became friends. I look forward to working with Tudy on a future restoration project in this magnificent city sometime soon!

Tudy Sammartini with my boys and me posing togetherunder a grape arbor


Monday, July 28, 2014

Today's Bouquet Travel Impressions: Claude Monet's Garden at Giverny

Claude Montet in his garden, 1921
I think my version of heaven looks a lot like this!
I am following Nature without being able to grasp her.
I perhaps owe having become a painter to flowers.

In the Garden, 1895,
Collection E. G
. Buehrle, Zürich
I think without my love of art, I perhaps would not have become a gardener or floral designer in my third life career; following that of a mother and art curator. This summer on my first family trip to Europe, I got to finally visit "the" garden that was the source of inspiration for many of the paintings of the great Impressionist painter Claude Monet. Monet's garden and lily pond at his country house in Giverny, France, has been a continuous source of inspiration to creativity, art research and gardening throughout my life.

Visiting Monet's vibrant gardens and lily pond at Giverny, has been a dreamy personal goal and on my bucket list, since I was a young art history student who could never afford such travel.  Experiencing this fantasia of flowers for the first time in June--when blossoms were exploding with color--was simply, wondrous.  The garden's vast variety of flowers seemed as etheral in their vitality as the ones that Monet immortalized in his Impressionist paintings.

Located half way between, Rouen and Paris, is the small country town Giverny, where Claude Monet spent 43 years cultivating and composing this magnificent garden and lily pond that was the subject of the beauty, poetry and prose of his many painting that now hang has in the finest museums of the world.

 I ‘m extremely busy with my garden; it’s such a joy to me and…I am in raptures at the wonders of nature.
Agapanthus, between 1914 and 1926, Museum of Modern Art, New York

It is well documented that Monet had a deep love and connection to his garden and sought inspiration from its beauty. Monet first rented his pink stucco one-room wide country home in 1883; and finally purchasing it in 1890 with the considerable success of the sales from his paintings of the 1870s that were the hallmark of the revolutionary art movement,  known as Impressionism.
 The Impressionist artists moved away from realism to a style that tried to capture fleeting and momentary light through short brush strokes side by side.  Over the years, Monet transformed his simple country garden typical for the Normand region--with a kitchen garden and an orchard of apple trees-- into a garden with wild vitality like that of his impressionist brushstrokes in one of his landscape paintings. He also added a lily pond that reflected the interest and fashion of Japanese prints that influence many artists of the time. This addition seems to balance the vitality and vibrancy of his more traditional flower garden with the pond's viscus, quite and more contemplative space that is reflective of a deeper more mysterious quality evident in many of Monet's late paintings.

Water Lilies, c. 1915, Musée Marmottan Monet

From a gardeners perspective, it just doesn't get much better. In fact, I think this is what my version of heaven may look like; as it is an explosion of color with wild energizing abundance that is simply joyful. Monet was a master gardener carefully composing his garden over many years to reflect the spontenaiety and naturalness just, as he depicted in his plein air paintings-- that we know were carefully planned and usually sketched in nature only to finish the painting in the studio. Every color and variety of flower was composed for contrast and pop like  brushstrokes in his paintings. In his garden planning, exploration was encourage by the soft gravel paths and flower arches throughout his garden. I enjoyed too the exotic beauty of his lily pond, but the untamed vitality, abundance of color and variety of his flower garden filled my heart. I think Monet and I are kindered garden spirits as we share the unbridled love of color, wild vitality, and joyful abundance in our garden aesthetics.

After our visit to  Monet's country house, garden and lily pond, we toured  the small town of Giverny. We ended our visit in the old church yard where Monet was laid to rest. Monet left his country home and garden to his son Michael, who gave it to the French Academy of Arts in 1966, and after 10 years of restoration, it opened to the public in 1980. Giverny was a place of inspiration and solace for Monet, and  each season, his garden continues to serve as a vibrant bouquet that continues to inspire and provide joy. It is no wonder why it is one of the most celebrated gardens in the history of art and gardening.