Public floral display of an Amsterdam canal featured in Blooms

Abstract fish sculpture made out of roses for Shop for a Week, Prinsengracht, Amsterdam, 2009, by The Wunderkammer (Florian Seyd and Ueli Signer, Amsterdam). Photo courtesy of The Wunderkammer/Jeannine Govaers

Imagine a Whitney Biennial for the global floral world, a survey taking the pulse of the contemporary moment from the best and brightest stars wielding a pair of clippers, all captured within the bindings of a book, and you’ll get a sense of Blooms (Phaidon, 2019). Showcasing the work of 86 floral designers, Blooms illustrates the boundary-busting, genre-bending nature of modern floristry and its new, heightened esteem in the artistic firmament.

Floral arrangment featured in Blooms

Golden roses, hellebores, ranunculus, begonia leaf, privet berries, and cranberries by Ariel Dearie Flowers (Ariel Dearie, New York). Photo courtesy of Ariel Dearie Flowers

“Not your grandmother’s florist” is how one editor sums it up in the preface.

Indeed, the flower arrangements in these pages—though vastly variant from one another—bear out today’s cultural crosscurrents. Readers will see ripple effects of the slow food movement in the use of local, foraged, and sustainable materials; note the intensifying intersection of flowers with fashion and advertising; and sense the aesthetic impact of the visual megaphone known as Instagram. No longer do florists need a proper shop and a calendar full of weddings to strut their stuff.

Selected by an international panel of distinguished editors, artists, and designers like John Derian, Jo Malone, Deborah Needleman, and Axel Vervoordt, the florists represent a diversity of style and sensibility. Some names are familiar. Ariella Chezar, Lewis Miller, and Emily Thompson have enjoyed ample coverage in this magazine and beyond. Other designers, however, especially those from more far-flung locales like Melbourne, São Paulo, and Bangkok, offer fresh, exciting discoveries.

Dilapidated wood-frame house featuring a flower mural and adorned with plants

Flower House, an abandoned house in Detroit filled with living flowers and plants for a three-day exhibition and installation, October 2015, by Pot + Box (Lisa Waud, Detroit, Michigan). Photo courtesy of Pot + Box/Heather Saunders

Colorful floral displays in blocks of ice

Iced Flowers exhibition, Saitama, Japan, 2015, by Tokyo’s Azuma Makoto. Photo by Azuma Makoto Azuma Makoto/©Shiinoki/Amkk

Like any artistic collection, some designs will resonate with particular readers, while others will not. What’s most exciting is the collective eclecticism and ambition on display. It’s the sense that floral design has blown through the flower shop window and is being embraced as an art form all its own.


By Kirk Reed Forrester

Blooms book cover

Blooms: Contemporary Floral Design, Victoria Clarke, commissioning editor (Phaidon Press Limited, 2019), $50

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