“I probably don’t fit most people’s typical image of a florist. I’m the burly guy with tattoos and a long beard in a flannel shirt,” laughs Antonio Bond. However, gaze upon any of his floral arrangements—more aptly called botanical sculptures—and it’s evident the man with the looks of a lumberjack has the vision and soul of a true artist.
A few years ago, after Bond’s work caught the eyes of the creators of Full Bloom, HBO’s floral design reality show, the Austin-based designer joined as one of 10 talented competitors on the second season. “For the first three episodes, I was really shy. I’m the person who wants my designs to speak for themselves,” he says. “But then I hit my groove, because once I’m comfortable, all bets are off and I let my guard down.” (Spoiler alert—he didn’t win but came in a very respectable third place).
Bond’s backstory has all the makings of an interesting reality show in its own right. The child of parents he describes as collectors and hippies who uncovered beauty in quirky, found objects, he grew up surrounded with and making art of all kinds, from music to drawing, painting, and photography. His first foray into the floral world happened in his late teens while working as a flower processor in a grocery store. “When the flowers came in, I’d learn their names,” he says. Before too long, he was making arrangements not only in the store, but also for weddings on the side as favors for friends. He began tinkering with a style that he’s now become known for, incorporating broken statues and odd bits and using unexpected vessels such as driftwood and bleached animal bones to construct arrangements of everything from peonies and roses to weeds and vines foraged in the wild.
Things took a dramatic turn in his twenties, after Bond quit his job and spent two years on dialysis awaiting a kidney transplant (the first of two). “It was a dark time and I needed to figure out what to do with my life,” he says. “I thought Transplants Floral would be a good name for my own business, and it stuck.” Stuck it certainly has. Bond is now highly sought after for large-scale weddings (far removed from the ones he did at cost for close pals) and events like Austin’s SXSW Music Festival, as well as for the kind of thought-provoking arrangements he creates for clients such as Hotel Saint Cecilia. He’s published a book, and of course he now gets recognized a lot more often on the street, thanks to his star turn on television.
When event designer Cassie LaMere enlisted Bond to create tablescapes and floral installations for a week-long glamping experience in Round Top, Texas, Bond says he was truly in his element, building his designs in the open air with a spectacular natural setting for inspiration. “I believe you get the best out of artists when you give them the freedom to do their thing. Cassie gave everyone involved in Camp Round Top just that, and it became magic,” Bond says. “It was definitely a unicorn job.” The florals seen in this article are from the Round Top event.
Antonio Bond’s Floral Philosophy
Nature guides me. It’s my biggest inspiration and I’m always looking down at my feet for what I can incorporate into my work.
Anything can become a vessel. I look at floral arrangements as making sculptures—driftwood, shells, bones, or the head of a statue can serve as the base. On one of the first days of the antiques fair, the Camp Round Top hostess brought back an iron sculpture of a human hand that probably weighed 150 pounds. I made a spontaneous arrangement of peonies and ranunculus in the palm. I love those kind of moments.
Mechanics matter. I let flowers flow naturally when I can, although I use chicken wire, tape, or floral foam when there’s no other way, which can be the case when I’m not working with a traditional vase. But I never want flowers to feel stiff.
Math doesn’t factor into the equation. I don’t go in with a formula and say this arrangement is going to have five peonies or that one will have six oranges. I start at one end of the table and begin to build, and as hippie as it sounds, I let the materials talk to me and tell me what looks good together. When it works, it’s like a vibration.
Tuck in a few surprises. I call them the Easter eggs of a tablescape; things like a cowboy figurine tumbling in a glass orb; dried insects nestled within the flowers; a small statue of a saint peeking out of the flowers.
Perfection is not the goal. I want the cracked and broken. I don’t mind when flowers aren’t perfect either—some might have a brown spot or a twisted stem. I appreciate that life cycle. In imperfection, there is beauty.
Think 360º. I like my arrangements to be a conversation starter, and for guests to walk all around the table to soak everything in. What they see on one side will be different from what they see on the other. I want them to get the full story.
“Anything can become a vessel. I look at floral arrangements as making sculptures—driftwood, shells, bones, or the head of a statue can serve as the base.”—Antonio Bond of Transplants Floral & Design
By Karen Carroll | Photography by Dagnushka
Antonio Bond’s book, Transplants: Eclectic Floral Design (Blue Star Press), is available from Amazon and other booksellers.
See more of Antonio’s work on his website, and follow Transplants Floral on Instagram.
Don’t miss Cassie LaMere’s elements for an unforgettable event.
See more from the Camp Round Top glamping event.