Talking Flowers with Amy Merrick
After securing a makeshift vase of soaked napkins and brown paper for my recently purchased bunch of ranunculus, NYC-based florist Amy Merrick suggested a cafe a few blocks from the nearly shut for the day Flower District in Chelsea. Here, at just past 10 in the morning, we sipped coffee and chatted about Tasha Tudor's impossibly magic illustrations, helping sweethearts select Valentine's blooms at her recent Castor & Pollux pop-up shop, and the bluebell field at Brooklyn's Botanic Garden where each year visitors appear to be hovering within it, as 'bluebells are about yay high (she holds her hand approximately two feet above the table) and the paths are nonexistent until you're close enough to step in one.'
Amy uses the word 'flowering' here and there on her website. I love this idea. The phrase 'floral arranging' seems too formal for Amy's style. A self made flower-er and stylist (she didn't study horticulture—fashion design, actually—a quality she considers and advantage), she credits mentors, family, and the New Hampshire farmhouse where she has holiday'd for as long as she can remember as the combined force that led her to the work she enjoys today.
SO, DID YOU FIND FLOWERS OR DID FLOWERS FIND YOU?
Both. I studied fashion design at FIT and have always been interested in composing an aesthetic across many mediums. A shopgirl gig at Marc Jacobs led to another at an antique shop where I eventually started prop styling. My transition into flower arranging came through an apprenticeship at Saipua, a boutique flower shop in Brooklyn, but I’ve been surrounded by flowers for as long as I can remember. My grandmother was a florist as well as an antique dealer, and I was taught to appreciate the natural beauty of flowers by my family from a young age.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR AESTHETIC?
A romantic, somewhat overgrown, elegant garden—distilled. I take into consideration what’s growing locally and what’s in season, as well as how the individual flower, fruit, or branch likes to grow in its native environment; I try to stay true to its natural lines.
DO YOU EVER FORAGE FOR YOUR ARRANGEMENTS?
New York is a tricky place to forage for local material but I keep an eye out for abandoned lots and alleys that have forgotten-about patches. On the way to a shoot I did for you guys, actually, I snagged a few clippings of gorgeous weeping blue cedar from the front of an industrial park. The shape makes a beautiful juxtaposition with softer flowers and the color is really special, too.
WHAT'S YOUR ALL-TIME FAVORITE BLOOM?
Lily of the valley is the most sentimental of all flowers to me. I also love old-fashioned garden roses, too—anything with a fragrance.
ANY FRESH-CUTS IN YOUR APARTMENT RIGHT NOW?
I just got back from traveling yesterday, so currently the most amazing arrangement of corner store carnations left by a friend who was keeping an eye on my cat. They’re each cut at different lengths and create a sort of spindly flower orb.
ON THE SUBJECT OF CORNER STORE FLOWERS, ANY OTHER GUILTY PLEASURES?
Baby’s breath, but only it, and massed out so it creates an airy puff.
WHERE DO YOU LOOK FOR INSPIRATION?
Old paintings: Dutch Master still lifes and Impressionists. I like the naturalness and spontaneity of the Impressionist arrangements, as if the painter’s girlfriend threw some flowers into a vase and then he painted them.
Erin Benzakein of Floret grows the most lush flowers and makes the most exquisite arrangements. She is the kindest of women, too. Ariella Chezar is pretty much the fairy godmother to all florists, her work is transcendentally beautiful and natural. Livia Cetti of The Green Vase's flower styling is the gold standard; her taste is unerring and I could look at her website all day.
For more immediate flower gratification, I follow the blogs Honey of a Thousand Flowers, Lotte & Bloom, and McKenzie Powell. I also have a huge floral book collection, the books from the 1980s by Madderlake being favorites.
ANYONE YOU'D KILL TO WORK WITH?
Tim Walker and World of Interiors.
WHAT TREND(S) ARE YOU NOTICING FOR WEDDING FLOWERS AT THE MOMENT?
Wedding tables inspired by Dutch Master still lifes. Two thumbs up in my book.
CAN YOU TALK A BIT ABOUT YOUR CREATIVE PROCESS WHEN STYLING A WEDDING?
Most often, girls have a basic idea or mood they want to convey, but don't necessarily know flower types or options for arrangements. After going over their aesthetic, budget, and venue, we'll decide on a concept together. I like to send along a moodboard when I email estimates, just to ensure that everyone is on the same page. And it’s of course helpful when brides share photos of flowers they particularly like as well as photos of their dress, venue, or invites.
ANY WEDDINGS ON THE HORIZON YOU'RE EXCITED ABOUT?
I'm really looking forward to October when I'm styling the wedding of a lady in Brooklyn who shared a picture of her grandmother's bouquet as inspiration. Apparently her grandmother had to take a horse carriage to her ceremony in January because they didn't have a car, and all of the ferns froze on the way. The flowers are going to be chalk-full of ferns.
YOU MENTION VASE-CHOICE FREQUENTLY ON YOUR BLOG. WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE NON-VASE VASE, AT THE MOMENT?
Old sugar and creamer sets make great vases. I'm especially partial to the tarnished silver ones that are a dime a dozen at antique stores.
FAVORITE WAY TO SECURE A BOUQUET?
Hand dyed silk ribbon is glorious, but I also hoard all types of vintage varieties—velvet, metallic, jute, grosgrain.
ANY FLOWERING PET PEEVES?
When people automatically naysay roses for being uninteresting. There are so many special varieties!
WOULD YOU STYLE US A COURTHOUSE WEDDING? LAST-MINUTE DRESS, FLOWERS, AND DANCE TUNE?
I'd love to see a girl wear this dress with a crown of wildflowers. Of course, they'd go home and dance to Bobby Darin's If I Were a Carpenter. That song always gets me.
OUTSIDE OF FLOWERING, WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE WAYS TO KEEP BUSY (OR NOT BUSY AT ALL)?
I write two weekly columns for the website design*sponge. One is about the aesthetics of my favorite movies and the second is about flowers. I also spend a lot of time taking photos for my blog. If I have a camera in hand, I'm a happy girl.
SO WHERE DO YOU ESCAPE?
Locally, Wave Hill in the Bronx. The style of planting there is really unique as far as gated gardens go. Also, my family has owned a farmhouse in New Hampshire since 1801, so I treat myself to a train ticket up there as much as I can during the summer.
IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE YOU'D RATHER BE DOING?
Nope! Just what I'm doing now with more time to relax and less rose thorn scratches.