March 07, 2016

Michael Devine Ltd. strives to create beautiful products that are unique and always handmade. Using the best artisans in both the USA and France, every yard of fabric or piece of china is carefully crafted and made to order.

Master Class: Plaza Flowers

A bounty of beauty greets customers in Plaza Flowers New York City Shop.
There are times when you only have to look at something and it is immediately clear it's a masterpiece. So it was when I was shooting the charming Kate Rheinstein Brodsky's stunning flowers for her entertaining story a few weeks ago. The combination of flowers and colors in the arrangements was clearly the work of a master artist. I had to know more. I asked Kate if she had done the flowers herself and she made it clear that they were the work of Connie Plaissay of New York's esteemed Plaza Flowers.  

Garden of Eden on the upper Eastside. 
 Plaza Flowers is a third generation family business that started at the 63rd Street trolley station in 1924. Today is has become the go to florist for New Yorkers in the know. The artist responsible for this success is the founders grandson, Connie. While he worked in the shop as a kid, the allure of cars was more appealing as he grew up. He became a mechanic in his teens and early twenties and then a race car driver.
Not the clearest path to success in the flower business. It was in his late twenties that the driver took the wheel of the family business and retooled the esthetic from very traditional florist arrangements (babies breath and roses genre) to living works of art. I recently had the privilege of spending some time while he made an arrangement and gleaning some of his tips for beautiful flowers.
Connie Plaissay
Naturally Plaissay has strong views on everything about flowers.
The first thing he clarified is that sharp contrast of colors that don't belong together, like red and white for Christmas will never come out of his shop. 
Rather, like a painter he chooses harmonies of color, the arrangement he made to illustrate his ideas was a beautiful combination of light and dark hues of purples.

Prepping Lilacs. Cut off the leaf joints, shave off the bark of the stem and split the stem in a cross
before putting the flower in water. 
When pressed about what makes his flowers so stunning his response was pretty straight forward, "You have to love what you do. You can tell the difference." 
Start placing flowers around the rim of the container.

Start with the rim when arranging flowers, its the foundation. After that his works get filled in from outside in. This time mauve roses were the second to go in the vase, followed by ravishing deep aubergine Ranunculus which seemed to establish the range of color.

Its all in the layering of flowers from outside in.  
When prepping the roses the first thing he did was to remove the outer leaves and then trim the stem at a 45 degree angle. The cut was the same for all the flowers.

Last one in. Tulips were the final flower added.
Tulips are one of the few flowers that keep growing after they have been cut and placed in water.
To prevent them from popping up in the arrangement place a small slit under the flower with the point of a knife.
Connie Plaissay admiring his masterpiece. 
I have always been curious to know if those little packets of floral preservatives were worth anything. According to Plaissy, they are good for keeping the water bacteria free. To keep arrangements looking their best for the longest time possible he recommends flushing the water every couple of days.
The finished symphony of color and beauty.
Watching Plaissay in action and the arrangement come to life, I really felt like I had watched something magical happen. After this experience I have rethought my entire concept of flowers and even what I am planning on planting in my garden this summer.