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Home Blog The Farmer and the {Florist} Interview: Karin Woodward of Haute Horticulture
November 17th 2014

The Farmer and the {Florist} Interview: Karin Woodward of Haute Horticulture

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Floret

Karin Woodward of Haute HorticultureFor my latest Farmer and the {Florist} installation, I’m delighted to be joined by Karin Woodward of Haute Horticulture, a fantastic floral design and styling studio based in Memphis. I’ve followed Karin’s work on Instagram for a while now and had the honor of meeting her in person at one of my Farmer-Florist Intensives that I hosted this summer.

Erin: Thanks so much for taking time to chat with me today, Karin! First, tell me a little bit about your business. I’d especially like to know more about your styling work. I have been drooling over some of the photo spreads on Magnolia Rouge that feature your designs. Wow—what beauty!

Karin: When I started my business the majority of my work was weddings. I had done some really big ballroom, modern, and traditional style weddings that were published in magazines and power blogs like Style Me Pretty. As grandiose as they were, the flowers rarely reflected my style, but rather the style of the client or designer they wanted me to emulate. Up until then I honestly thought that was the only way that things were done in the floral design world.

Haute HorticultureOne day early in 2012 I purchased a variety of flowering plants from a nursery and cut/conditioned them as well as vines from my own yard. With the help of a photographer friend, I made a vignette with the flowers, accessories, food and coordinating fabrics. She later submitted some of the shots and it was immediately picked up. The feedback and requests generated from that day of creating began the chapter of editorial inspiration vignettes for which our Memphis group became known.

HauteHorticultureEditorialshootIt has been so fulfilling to work on features requested by magazines such as Southern Weddings and Magnolia Rouge, all while juggling our wedding businesses because honestly, that is what pays the bills. Now that I am starting a new chapter in flower farming, it is uncertain what future percentage of my work will be weddings, but I will always have the drive to design and remain a farmer-florist.

Erin:  I’ve enjoyed reading your thoughtful Instagram captions that reflect your growing interest for using local, seasonal flowers in your design work.  Can you talk more about that evolution?  What local sourcing are you doing currently?

Weddings by Haute HorticultureKarin:  I started noticing that the closer I am to seasonally accurate recipes and flower stories, the more it resonates with me and my audience and clients. My friends, colleagues and I regularly discuss the subject of nature and how much of it we crave as humans and especially as women. When using out of season flowers that are straight as an arrow, there is no real bond with the design. I liken this to eating small hard peaches in December. Seasonal flower arrangements are in tune with our internal sense of timing just as ripe summer peaches are.

Styling by Haute HorticultureIt is also no coincidence that there is a mounting appreciation for all things natural as we have hit our limit of sterile light, packaged food, duplicate art, and factory home products. To acquire wood and metal wares or naturally dyed fiber gives us a piece of earthen treasure to touch and hold. We are ready to reconnect with the land and each other. I am so happy that even if this revolution is a slow one, I can live it in my own home and city and share it with others. I’ve been using a good bit of material from my land already and the process is addicting.

Haute Horticulture styled tablescapeErin: Ahhh yes, I totally understand that feeling! Please tell me more about the land you recently acquired. Will you be growing flowers and foliage for your design business?

Karin: We recently purchased two acres to make a total of four and a half acres. We live on the property and plan on farming a large portion of it. Once there is a good crop of planned flowers, foliage, herbs, and ornamentals grown, I plan to sell them and use them in my designs. You have proven high volume and high quality flowers can be produced on just a few acres.

farmer + floristI have spent years as the designer who needs certain flowers in this area and cannot get them or I received products dried up after the long and expensive freight journey. I have taken note of the needs of my local market as well as the upcoming must-have flowers in the South. One of the extra benefits of growing such a wide variety of product on our land is that unlike the field monocropping practiced in my region, we will be building nutrients into the soil base with good compost and providing a pesticide-free haven for bees.

Erin: What flower varieties have captured your imagination lately that will be making their way into your garden?

Karin: If I love a plant or flower I’m likely not alone, so I research with confidence that what I choose to grow will be equally coveted by my fellow flower lovers. Seeing your Love in a Puff vine is a great example. Vines are such a great way to soften any arrangement and very difficult to ship intact.

Design by Haute HorticultureI look forward to growing more passion vine, which happens to be Tennessee’s state wildflower, hops, and unusual fruiting varieties that could be so much fun such as Melothria scabra Mexican Cucumber. I love delicate white cosmos and also want to try cotton–specifically green cotton. I’m excited about growing and experimenting with anything that will thrive in our southern clay, heat, and humidity!

Erin: So, I was stalking your blog and saw that you were one of the creative forces behind an iPhone app, Flowerwheel. Wow! You are a woman of so many talents! Can you tell me more about it, how you created it and how you use it with clients? How might farmer-florists find it useful?

Karin: Necessity being the mother of invention, I created Flowerwheel App with my programming-savvy husband in 2011. He did the detailed coding and I did everything else from the logo to the photos, format, research, and delivery of information. It took us 6 months to complete, launched in early 2012, and is a constant work in progress. In the past I was spending a majority of my client meetings educating them on what flowers in their favorite color were available on their wedding date. I had the standard deck of color coded flower cards most designers use, but needed a way for clients to know these choices before we met so we could talk more about the actual designs.

iphone app from Haute HorticultureThis was honestly created with brides and event clients in mind and then a funny thing happened, the floral design community embraced it more than I had planned. We began getting designers as customers and from many countries like China and Russia. Because of the user shift, there is a bit of tweaking now needed to keep up with the requests for botanical names of flowers as well as information of the actual growing season of the flowers as opposed to the market availability on which the app was originally based. We plan on adding all of these new features as well as even more flowers in the coming months. I will need to communicate with slow flower farms to gauge the true seasons of flowers in the northern hemisphere and eventually the southern hemisphere calendar, since we have had such requests from locations such as Australia and New Zealand.

Fruit and flowers styled by Haute HorticultureErin: Ok, confession time: I’m obsessed with your tablescapes that combine florals and edibles. They are fantastic! Any tips for creating them you’d care to share?

Karin: Edibles are so satisfying to use in every form. I don’t know if I can ever tire of incorporating such seasonal finds with projects. Fruits and vegetables give us subconscious color cues and I love the sensory overload of persimmons matching garden roses and coleus matching a cluster of pecans on the branch; all in the same vase.

Fruit and flowers styled by Haute HorticultureI am a texture addict and the adventure of finding new ones is all too alluring. After some civic pruning on a Chinese chestnut tree, the results of incorporating branches of prickly cupules was gorgeous but truly painful. Those little thorns are SHARP! I really don’t know if they are safe enough for any arrangement accessible to the public. So there we have the standard example of suffering for the sake of art!

My tip is to experiment, play, and practice with products and combinations. Experimentation will help you know the limits of the materials. If using or wiring in open faced fruit, sometimes browning or shriveling can be delayed by spraying it with floral preservative or in the case of apples, a salt water soak works well. Leave nothing off the table of possibilities unless you don’t love the results or they are proven to be too risky, such as unwelcome thorns or bad stains in formal client settings.

Erin: Finally, what are your plans and visions for the future?

Karin: The future starts with the launch of Seventh Hand Farm. Our farm is named after the phrase we coined whenever our family of six hard working hands is blessed with help from the “seventh hand” of a person or spiritual hand in the events that have led us to this place of happiness for which we are so grateful. I plan to blog freely about our journey as you have inspired me to do. I will also begin teaching floral design in a way that is both good for the seasonal movement and the soul—a “floral yoga” methodology that I designed while finishing a degree in art, psychology, and education.

Haute Horticulture studioI want to thank you for all of the honesty and inspiration you have given to people like myself who at times have read your blog backwards like chapters in a story of self-discovery and success, with modesty and purpose. You have been that seventh hand on more than one occasion.

Erin: Awwww, that is so sweet, Karin. Thanks so much for your kind words and for sharing your story. I cannot wait to see the beauty that will be coming from Seventh Hand Farm!

Connect with Karin :

Seventh Hand Farm
Haute Horticulture studio
Flower Style Love blog

Instagram
Pinterest
Facebook

photos by Annabella Charles 

2 Comments

  1. Sunday links, 12/21/14 | Tutus And Tiny Hats on

    […] torture torture? A thought experiment. -Everything is terrible, so, have some pretty flowers! Also some more pretty flowers. (Sometimes I really wish I were a florist so I could work with flowers like these all […]

    Reply
  2. VillageKid on

    Thanks for another great post on another great lady to watch!!

    You ladies keep my ‘inner artist’ healthy and strong when it falters! I keep planning and expanding what we do up here in the north!

    Thanks again!!

    Reply

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