Remember, at the end of last century, having discovered Bonsai, sushi, futons, matcha, we dreamed of ikebana, the art (very complicated) of the Japanese zen bouquet. Well, if you are still utterly incapable of arranging a flower, a leaf or a branch artistically in a braided mural vase or a ceramic flower holder, take heart, its outmoded! Just like the eternal round bouquet at the florists. Today’s nec plus ultra of flower arrangement ? It’s the bouquet Flemish style, baroque and Rubenesque! You can see them in elegant restaurants (le Coucou or the Modern in New York), gallery openings, the “afters” of runway shows, lobbies of fashionable hotels (Le Pigalle in Paris) or marriages in the Hamptons. There isn’t a chic florist who doesn’t try to imitate a Brueghel the Elder or a Jan van Huysen still life. In Paris, the rising stars of the profession set the tone on their sites, a traditional composition, on a black background, surrounded by a few fruits, at Debeaulieu; at Stephane Chapelle, a photo of the team that evokes Rembrandt’s L’Atelier, chiaroscuro included…According to the New York Times the trend was started by The Little Flower School in Brooklyn where the class “Dutch Masters” (“Compose a bouquet like the Dutch masters”) is fully booked months in advance. The hype review Gardenista is passionate about Emily Thompson (in NYC) and Sophia Moreno-Bunge (in LA), two young flower artists clearly regulars at the Met and the RikjsMuseum.
Interested by a little class on “Flemish Bouquets for Dummies”? Get out your Alvar Aalto vase, negotiate some pewter bowls, marble urns, crypto-Etruscan jars, super kitsch enameled pitchers…fill them to profusion with flowers, leaves, branches heavy with berries. Mix in large flowers (peonies, roses, buttercups, poppies, anemones, tulips too of course) and grasses. For colors, let yourself go—the Flemish bouquet is psychedelic—however a touch of Delft blue (delphinium, hydrangea) is pretty much compulsory. Form? Oval only. Drip things along the sides of the vase (like a cluster of fresh dates). Scatter some fruit at the foot of the composition (pomegranates, pears, grapes…). And there you have it, a masterpiece!
Clearly this spectacular new trend requires a consequential budget, much higher than the modest “little nothing bouquet” which Le Futiloscope likes so much. But the good news is that these bouquets last a long time: The painters of the time adored drooping tulips or withering flowers that symbolized the brevity of life. Also, leaves in the process of wilting or gnawed by insects: like nature, a bouquet should be imperfect. Still a few questions remain unanswered. Like can you add a leaf of Monstera to a Flemish bouquet? And can it co-habit with some pilea in its concrete flowerpot? We’re not so sure….