“Limiting the color palette will make it easier,” says David Stark, looking over the selection at Village Farm & Grocery in the East Village. He gathered nine yellow and red gerbera daisies, nine red roses, one bunch of red carnations, and a bunch of yellow chrysanthemums, as well as a stray lily leaf he found on the floor. He came equipped with a variety of vases, including a set that had colored pencils glued to the outside. Stark prepped the vases with chunks of Oasis, a dense foam that holds water. “It allows us to defy gravity,” he said. He stuck in carnations to hide the foam. “The carnation is a great trick. They’re inexpensive and last a long time. You want to put them in very, very close to each other, straight down, and exactly parallel to the Oasis. I’m hoping to make this arrangement look like a plant growing out of a bed of red.” He added one gerbera and some lily leaves. “The shorter you cut the flower, the longer they’ll last, because the water has less stem to travel up to reach the flower,” he said.
He decided to go classical with the roses, as a contrast to the Pop-looking mums and gerberas. As a final touch, he moved the many vases around until he was satisfied. “Vary the textures, vary the scales of things, especially at a rectangular table; people have a personal relationship to these smaller things.
“The vases are as important as the flowers,” Stark advised. “People often think that a vase should just be like a generic glass.”
Artist and landscape designer Paula Hayes chose lilacs at the deli partly because they’re only in season for a few weeks, and partly because the scent reminds her of the country. In the end, she chose two bunches of lilacs and one allium. “Normally I don’t have cut flowers,” she said. “I try to keep things alive. Cut flowers are about color. It’s like a still life.” Inside the store, she found a bag of wasabi-covered goji berries. “You have to have treats when you give people flowers,” she said.
In the studio, Hayes unpacked her shopping and spread out the flowers, looking for the “right branch.” She concluded the lilac branches were different varieties, and at different stages of development. “This should create a little narrative,” she said. After trimming the branches, Hayes shifted to the double-mouthed glass vase she had designed herself. “To me it’s like a heart or something biological,” she said. She laid out the flowers and studied them. She put two stems in the vase and adjusted them. “They really seem to have a relationship,” she said. “When you’re with flowers, you want to see them from all different angles.” She scattered the goji berries on one side of the table. “They look like seeds,” she said. The arrangement began to read from right to left: seed, bloom, decay. She adjusted the branches slightly. She walked around to view the table—now covered with petals, branches, and goji berries—from another angle. “You know,” she said, “the whole setting is nice.”
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