Flower Arranging + Happy Accidents: A Conversation with Amy Merrick
Last week, we hosted author and floral designer Amy Merrick at our Glen Mills, PA location for a live floral arranging event and Q&A with our senior green goods buyer, Melissa Lowrie. It was a fun, lively event full of thoughtful conversation, flower arranging tips, and behind-the-scenes peeks into Amy’s new book, On Flowers: Lessons from an Accidental Florist. Since Amy had so many wonderful ideas to share (and there was only so much space for folks at the sold out event!), we wanted to share our own conversation with Amy here.
terrain: Hi Amy! Thank you so much for chatting with us—and for such a wonderful event last week at Styer’s! When did you first fall in love with flower arranging?
Amy: As a child, I was surrounded by nature and some of my earliest childhood memories are in the garden, but flower arranging wasn’t something that was a part of our life at the time. It was only when I came to New York as a fashion student when I started to really miss that natural connection and thought if I couldn’t have a garden, I could at least make one in a vase.
terrain: Your book’s subline is “Lessons from an accidental florist.” What does “accidental florist” mean to you?
Amy: I never set out to become a florist; it really was just for fun in the beginning. So in that sense, my whole career was a bit of an accident. But that could also be doing myself a disservice, because obviously once I decided to pursue it, I pursued it single-mindedly. Now I think of myself more as an arranger of happy accidents, letting flowers find their own place. There’s an arrangement in my book where I actually just cut the flowers and put them in a bucket as I went, but it was so beautiful unarranged that I simply transferred it to a vase. There is no manufactured naturalness that can ever match real spontaneity!
terrain: With that idea of spontaneity in mind, how would you describe your flower arranging philosophy?
Amy: Natural appreciation! More so than any design principles, I love arranging flowers that I’ve picked myself, even if they’re just little bits of wild grass, daisies, or leaves.
terrain: As a traveling author and florist, you’ve had the opportunity to work with flowers and people in so many countries. Are there similarities or differences you see between cultures?
Amy: I think many countries have a few flowers that they feel really represent them. In Japan, people feel such a strong connection and kinship to cherry blossoms. There are huge regional festivals to celebrate them, and an entire set of words that describe different moments experiencing them. Hanafubuki is a favorite of those words. It represents the moment that petals swirl in the breeze making a blizzard of blossoms, translating literally to “flower snow.”
terrain: If you had to distill flower arranging into 3-5 key ideas for the at-home floral arrangement, what would they be?
Amy: There are three elements to arranging flowers at home: the flowers, the vase, and the place you put them. They all relate to each other in an innate way. When I’m choosing flowers, I always look to the season to guide me to the most beautiful material, even if it’s changing leaves or a bare branch in winter. And don’t think of vases as just a vessel for water, they’re also an element unto themselves—another flower if you will! And putting the right flowers in the right place makes all the difference, a tall branchy arrangement in your entryway versus a little posy of fragrant flowers by your bedside.
terrain: Are there any common misconceptions you see people have about flower arranging at home?
Amy: I think a lot of people worry about how long flowers will last in a vase, expecting that just because a grocery store rose can last well over a week that all other flowers should last as long! The more delicate and fragrant the flower, the shorter the vase life can be, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t worth living with. Even having a beautiful flower for a single day day is such a gift! No one would bat an eye at buying a cocktail and enjoying it for only a half an hour. A single delicate flower can give that same pleasure and more, for days on end.
terrain: Thanksgiving is coming up – any thoughts or ideas on favorite arrangements for the holiday table?
Amy: Oh gosh! Can I be honest? I have such conflicted feelings about table centerpieces. I usually will do something very simple and small like bud vases of asters or rosehips on the dinner table itself, and instead do a big, stunning branchy arrangement on the buffet table. Thanksgiving is all about food! If centerpieces get too large, they make this barrier across the table. More than flowers, my go to is just flooding the table with candles. I always try for a candle per person, and I keep the lights quite low. Flowers are just like humans, they look the most beautiful by candlelight.
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