22.04.22 Plant People
Vase by Alex Reed ▪

Did you expect to have a creative career?

I’ve always expected to have a creative career. It was hard because growing up in a strict Asian household with a different traditional mindset, anything creative/art-related wasn’t seen as a career path. I’ve always felt I wasn’t set to stick to one job being my only job for the rest of my life — I think it’s good to try different things that speak to you and actually fulfill you in that moment.

How did you get started working with flowers? What has your journey been from assisting to leading your own projects?

I was dedicating most of my time to photography and wanted to become a photojournalist. When I finished at Academy of Art in San Francisco, I’m not sure what happened, but I didn’t want to keep pursuing it anymore. I moved back to Los Angeles and needed a job and a nearby flower shop was hiring. I really wasn’t expecting to fall so deeply in it or have it become my career.

It's so wonderful learning from different florists — how they work, what they envision, building their business from the bottom up — it's so beautiful to watch. I’m forever grateful for those who’ve been there and helped me along the way — past and present.

Going from assisting to leading my own projects has had its many ups and downs. It still does to this day. I really had to make time for my own work. I assist and freelance so much, sometimes it gets hard and you lose sight of what your work is like and who you are. After a long day, I would find myself trying to make something even from scraps, it really helped ease my heart in a way. Even seven and a half years in, I’m still learning so many things — about flowers, life, myself. There’s always something new!

Do you have early plant memories or encounters that have shaped your sensibility?

My parents planted a plum tree in front of the house I grew up in the moment we moved in. It grew beautifully and healthily. I would always be so excited when it would start to flower and then produce the most delicious plums. It was my favorite time of the year. As years passed, it started to not do so well. We didn’t know why – my mom took care of it as best she could but still we were unsure what was happening. It started to produce less plums, it didn’t flower as much, and slowly, it was getting worse and it was cut down. This tree that I grew up with made me understand, as cliche as it may sound, that this is the cycle of life. Sometimes, things can happen unexpectedly and can happen tragically. I think in some ways, because of this tree and fond memories around it, I include the process of decaying flowers as part of my work.

I think decay is just as beautiful as a living flower/plant. Sometimes I would like a specific flower to last forever, but to watch it go through waves of “life” in the next hour or a couple of days, it’s as if you were alongside this flower through most of its life. There are so many feelings when capturing this process – the vulnerability, how the colors change, how the petals and stems start to slowly wilt, all of it — I think it deserves a moment just as a fresh flower would have.

How do you think about sustainability in the world of floral design?

It’s tricky because the industry is not as sustainable as one thinks it may be, a lot of waste occurs. One can create a beautiful installation with all flowers that have been purchased at the flower market but most of the bunches are wrapped in plastic, tied with rubber bands, etc. They are used to create a beautiful moment that the next day has to be taken down and all thrown away. It’s best to keep being mindful of the environment by trying to not use sprayed/dyed flowers or flowers that are heavily sprayed with pesticides because they are not compostable; to not use floral foam, which is the most absolutely harmful thing for the environment (please don’t ever use it, there are so many tools to use for mechanics!); to use as many local flowers as possible, which can be tricky sometimes when it comes to clients’ orders, but researching local farmers that you can support and discussing using more local flowers with clients can be a start.

Vase by Alex Reed ▪

Do you live with plants?

I turned a small section of my kitchen into an orchid island. Clematis vines live in a huge pot on my small front porch and alongside is a vanda orchid hanging on the rail. In the back porch lives a potted ‘apricot candy’ garden rose, a cleistocactus colademonois (monkey tail cactus), and ‘wightii’ begonia.

Vase by Alex Reed ▪

What are some cycles that define your job?

The constant running (and driving) around, looking, seeing, finding, researching, searching, imagining, planning, processing, cleaning, creating, taking a step back, going back to it, figuring out pricing, communicating, crying, smelling, laughing, being in shock (good and bad), enjoying, appreciating, understanding, and feeling it all.

What are the different flowers speaking to you especially lately? And the perennial classics?

Currently: camellias, stellata magnolias, poppies, orchids, quince and almond blossoms, and (not a flower) spanish moss. Perennial: clematis, columbine, hollyhock, phlox, begonias, bleeding hearts, chrysanthemums, roses, bearded iris, allium, geranium, japanese anemone, nasturtiums, passiflora, pansy, coral bells, tiger and toad lilies, water lilies and wisteria.