Harvard University calls it the effects of home ecology. Closer to home in Greenville, Philo Floral owner Elizabeth Seward, when talking about the importance of owers, says, “I want to convince people that flowers are necessary.”
And what do flowers do, according to the Home Ecology of Flowers Study at Harvard University? Increase compassion and kindness for others; decrease anxiety, worry, and depression; and provide a boost of energy, happiness, and enthusiasm. Sure, your $8 bunch of Virginia Tulips from the Fresh Market might do the trick, but Seward does one better: she creates a floral moment—an experience, really. And it is precisely within that moment of time—the window from creation to extinction—that, to her, is where the true beauty lies.
And, the darker the better. “If flowers came in black, I would love it,” Seward explains, laughing, saying that may make her sound too goth, too punk. But therein also lies the paradoxical nature of this oral designer—she’s working with elements in nature that are notoriously light, airy, delicate, and feminine, but she’s drawn to the more contradictory, controversial, and masculine facets. “I like dark, moody, saturated colors. Like winter rose, they go against the grain. They like the shade and cold and come out in a super dark, saturated feel.”
Ephemeral Beauties // The fleeting nature of flowers attracts Seward. Each of her arrangements can be considered a specific moment in time— creation to extinction— within which beauty briefly exists.
Seward, who has a degree in horticulture, got her fix of that kind of “flowerscape” with a recent Dutch Masters Study workshop she attended in March in New York City. Imagine the dark, burgundy-draped velvet in the still-life paintings of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries: these were the cues in composition and color that Seward was craving to apply to her work. And it’s work that feels familiar as an art form—albeit one that eventually withers, which is part of its allure. “I never like the idea of working on a painting for a month. I liked the idea of working on a painting for an hour and then being done with it and moving on. So, I think that’s why florals have been my thing.” Unless it’s at her own home. “I only grow cactus because they’re really easy,” she says, laughing again at yet another contradiction.
But it is the hellebore (or “Lenten rose,” as they poke through in late winter), especially the ones that bloom like a bounty of blood oranges, that Seward is attracted to, often either for her own designs or while working at the Station, a collaborative arts studio in the Village of West Greenville. She works with Statice Floral Couture, a full-time wedding florist, which has a different vision than what she has for Philo.
“When I was thinking of my company, I was in philosophy class and we were studying the Greeks at the time. I thought I really want philosophy, psychology, and owers to be drawn into one concept, and philo means ‘an affinity for a certain thing.’”
Seward’s are the types of arrangements that don’t just take up space in the room, they bring atmosphere, feeling, and effect. The creation itself is a moment to experience before it’s gone. You don’t need an Ivy League study to appreciate that—it’s the thought that counts.