Written by Mathias Schandel
At the end of January this year, the Michlers generously sent me to Paris, France, to study with the florist Catherine Muller for one week. The course I attended was all about garden-style floral design. At Michler’s, we strive to imitate the gardens in which we surround ourselves. My goal for the course was to learn new ways to establish that connection to nature, to discover a new way of looking at things.
Each day, Catherine would begin by demonstrating how to build a new bouquet. One morning, she demonstrated an arrangement she called the végétatif bouquet. She began by gathering an armful of tulips, occasionally mixing in taller stems of narcissus and chamomile. Once she had a large enough bouquet, she dropped the armful in a rustic wooden bucket. Next, she added towering stems of crocosmia, gently nodding viburnum blooms, and a different variety of tulips with large, heavy heads bobbing at the end of long, curving stems. Looking at the result, I felt like I was crawling through a garden while weeding and had looked up to see layers upon layers of flowers, a miniature forest of blooms. Suddenly, I had a better understanding of what I was striving for.
Throughout the class, I began to notice the same patterns. Each design had a series of layers. Even the arrangements that were primarily one-sided played with various depths. Flowers peeked out from behind each other, sometimes shooting out in a different direction from the others as if to say, “look at me!”
Catherine also encouraged me to use the weight of the flowers to my advantage. If I was using garden roses, she suggested I place them so that their heavy heads bowed to face the viewer and add some weight to the arrangement. Airy, bouncy blooms such as nerine should peek out just enough to bounce around and bring levity to the arrangement. Under Catherine’s careful guidance, my own designs began to come to life as well.
This course taught me that arranging in the garden style requires a careful eye. What is it you see in the garden? How do the plants contrast and complement each other? What stands out in your view, and how is it different from the rest? By the end, I was able to look at a bucket of flowers in a new light and see how they might create a special garden of their own.