The international top florist does it all—and she shares her secrets on how you can be the best florist, too.
Flowers, traditionally, are the unspoken expression of love; a gesture to honor, remember and celebrate milestones made in life. The flowers of now are something of another; think petaled walkways disguised as indoor gardens and abstract sculpted vines adorning chic hotel lobbies. The expansion of floral art has a lot to do with the omnipresence of social media and has aroused a new obsession with botanic centerpieces, offering artists another medium to decorate with and elevating both advertising and entertainment with this more unconventional material. For Jennifer McGarigle, considered one of the best florists, who has dominated Pinterest as well, this is good news. Although the top floral artist is not new to the scene (she designed parties and décor for the Oprah Winfrey Show and was a design consultant for the Bellagio Hotel in Vegas), she is certainly tapping her own creative tendencies to keep evolving the world of floral—one stem at a time.
she is certainly tapping her own creative tendencies to keep evolving the world of floral—one stem at a time.
The designer’s roots began in Bodega Bay, California and have carried her to her chic design studio in the art-forward, culinary hot-spot of Culver City. She is the owner and principal designer of Floral Art, her studio and showroom where visitors have the chance to walk straight into the imaginative space that McGarigle thrives in. Being in the iconic city of Los Angeles seems to pair beautifully with the top florist’s breezy, yet dynamic, approach to floristry. Being both free in form and with an often Bohemian-driven aesthetic, she is also a force in the industry and aimed on success—an enduring attitude in the coastal metropolis. “Being based in LA has allowed me the luxury to be creative with big budgets and work a diverse clientele. We’re also lucky to have access to locally grown flowers in California,” she shares.
Considered on the best florists, this darling has had her flower art, furniture designs and modern neon vases featured in the New York Times, Oprah Magazine, Architectural Digest and a long list of others that is a nod to her blooming career in the industry as a top florist. She has crafted everything from conceptual rose chandeliers seemingly frozen inside of acrylic boxes for a museum to a staircase fixed with pink-hued petals for a VH1 celebrity event. Her tablescapes for high-profile clients can be re-imagined at-home through her hands-on videos hosted on her website. They may include artful centerpieces crafted with poppy pods and cacti-placeholders to crystal quartz imbued candle runners for a dreamy ambiance.
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“My beginning question is always, what will complement the environment yet be unexpected? From here, creative ideas come easy. Inspiration is everywhere.”
Last year, McGarigle shared her work at the Art Alive show at the San Diego Museum of Art in Balboa Park, where she displayed her artistry through a piece that was inspired by an Alfred Eisenstaedt photography exhibit. The top florist’s international projects have included weddings in beachy locales of Mexico, New Zealand and even a celebration in Lake Como, Italy. In 2015, she created room-sized flower installations in a Japanese hotel for industry leaders, the best florists and guests during the cherry blossom season in Tokyo. “The Tokyo flower market is spectacular with floral varieties in every imaginable color. It was magic,” she notes. McGarigle tells us her inspiration starts with the actual space as this is where she can identify what she has to work with in regard to volume, height and color.
This is her guide to creating positive limitations that reign in the infinite design possibilities. “My beginning question is always, what will complement the environment yet be unexpected? From here, creative ideas come easy. Inspiration is everywhere.”
ICONIC spoke with the fabulous top florist about her creative process, what’s on the horizon for floral innovations and the do’s and don’ts for your very own magnificent tablescapes.
ICONIC LIFE: Who have you designed for that impacted the trajectory of your work?
JENNIFER MCGARIGLE: One of my first clients was the late, Jerry Perenchio. He had a special appreciation for flowers and through referrals, I was introduced to circles of other high-profile clients, helping me to become one of the best florists.
ICONIC LIFE: Beginning a floral installation seems like a massive undertaking. How do these large-scale pieces begin?
JENNIFER MCGARIGLE: My process begins with the imagination, then to sketches and renderings. After designs are complete, I’ll often test the idea, especially if it’s a new concept I’ve never tried before. The mechanics behind design can make or break an installation, especially given the tight timelines we’re often under. After testing is completed, each component of the project is broken down in order to know what we need to make it happen. And piece by piece, it comes together.
ICONIC LIFE: You’ve been referred to as ‘the casual perfectionist’ by the Los Angeles Times as a top florist. We are dying to know how you can be both.
JENNIFER MCGARIGLE: I’m casual in the way I like to entertain at home while I love creating an inviting atmosphere for friends to be in; flowers, candles, music and good food. It’s fun and when imperfections come up, I don’t stress – there’s so much else to focus on and enjoy.
That being said, when I’m working with my clients, I’m in OCD perfection-level mode. It’s my job to see that there aren’t imperfections.
ICONIC LIFE: Tell us about your design workshops and what takeaways guests can expect to leave with after spending time with one of the best florists?
JENNIFER MCGARIGLE: Design themes for workshops are based on inspirations that come from art, architecture, colors, interior design and places that are translate into floral design. For example, the class titled Renaissance in Bloom is inspired by still life and floral paintings during the Renaissance period. The Peony No 5 class is a Chanel perfume-inspired peony arrangement class and The Parker is Mid-Century Modern meets Palm Spring design that parlays into flowers. Whatever the genre, all designs have a fresh, modern take.
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Design themes for workshops are based on inspirations that come from art, architecture, colors, interior design and places that are translate into floral design.
Classes are taught step-by-step (by the top florist) for beginners as well as those with more experience. Following the main instruction, classes end with simplified DIY examples that expand upon the design theme of the evening, like how to create a tabletop design complete with satellite vase arrangements, napkin and candle treatments to décor ideas. Design tips show how easy it is to implement the beauty of flowers into everyday life. The best part is, it doesn’t have to take a lot of time or money.
ICONIC LIFE: For our readers who are interested in getting innovative with their own tablescapes, whether for a dream tea party or for an elegant New Year’s soiree, can you pass along some sage advice from a top florist about choosing a theme and then executing the vision?
JENNIFER MCGARIGLE: Keep it simple.
• Pick 1 to 3 flower varieties in either a monochromatic or tone on tone color palette (meaning 2 – 3 colors that blend together).
• When creating collections of vases and or candle holders on a table, choose similar shapes. For example, stay with all round shapes, even if a mixture of different elements.
• If including a prop, stay consistent with what this is so that it contributes to a pattern on a long, rectangular table or throughout a room full of round tables.
• Keep arrangements low enough so they don’t block guests from seeing and conversing with one another, especially for intimate gatherings.
• Tablecloths are an opportunity to elevate the look of any table setting. If it’s not in the budget to use a higher end cloth, stick to the basics of white, ivory or black. Either way, tablecloths should always to reach to the ground.
ICONIC LIFE: As one of the best florists, how do you choose who you are going to work with for each project and manage the collaborative process?
JENNIFER MCGARIGLE: I go by referrals. One good connection usually leads to several. I’ve been lucky with this so far.
ICONIC LIFE: What sustainability practices are you and Floral Art taking to reduce your carbon footprint and provide healthy alternatives for clients as a top florist?
JENNIFER MCGARIGLE: When possible, we opt not to use floral foam, which has a one-time use and contains toxins and we recycle all materials that we can.
ICONIC LIFE: Floral arrangements in the form of sculpture, people’s names, significant numbers and sky-high floral walls have been a major trend in the industry as of late. What new trends do you think are on the horizon for celebratory events from some of the best florists?
• Suspended floral installations. Floating flowers have an ethereal affect that transfixes people.
• Layered designs that go beyond a single dimensional floral wall.
• Architecture and interior design with flowers to push the boundaries of how we expect to experience flowers: walls, ceilings and wallpaper patterns.
ICONIC LIFE: What can we expect from you, a top florist, in 2020?
JENNIFER MCGARIGLE: More floral and nature installations that connect into specific spaces and environments. I’m also consulting for a new HBO floral competition show this spring and there are a few secret projects.
Favorite flowers for winter? Peonies from New Zealand
Favorites flowers for summer? Dahlias, English garden roses
Favorite authors? Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald
Favorite place for inspiration in LA? LACMA, MOCA, the Huntington Library Gardens
Favorite place to unwind? Sardinia, Italy or on my sunny back deck
Favorite overseas city? Florence, Italy
Favorite space for the best florist to gather floral inspo for future projects? Sitting at my wood farm table desk that faces the garden
Favorite playlist/artist to create to? Eclectic mixes, everything from the Rolling Stones to Led Zeppelin, Van Morrison to D’Angelo to Thievery Corporation
Favorite podcast? The Moth. This American Life. Ted Talks.
Favorite floral trend? I’m anti trends (with the exception of sustainability). I believe in originality
Least favorite floral trend? Mason jars
Describe your personal style in 3 words? Eclectic, elegant, no-fuss
Describe your top florist style in 3 words? Imaginative and fresh with an unusual twist
Who or what do you consider to be ICONIC? The color green, peonies and my mother
1. Flowers: one to three flower varieties
2. Colors: monochromatic or tone on tone color palette
3. Vases: Stay consistent with vase and accessory shapes, materials and sizes. For example, it’s okay to create a collection of different vases but choose a unifying element like shape, finish /material (ceramic, glass, silver, etc.) and graduating heights to create connection and pattern between them. Note: clear glass is usually a neutral that can be mixed with other finishes.
1. Use tall vases for intimate gathering as they get in the way of conversation between people
2. Mix up too many flowers, colors and materials. Remember that if you have a room full of tables, it’s how the room looks as a whole, versus just one on its own, says a top florist
3. Leave messy foliage on flower stems underwater in clear glass vases