Experts: The Budding Genius

A floral designer gives tips on how to keep costs in check—and reveals why his favorite arrangements hang from the ceiling.

Photograph by David Yellen

Photograph by David Yellen

JOHN LaROCHE wasn’t always surrounded by handtied bouquets and centerpieces. He got his start in Palm Beach, where he designed home floral arrangements for clients with $6,000 orchid budgets. After returning to his native New England, LaRoche created luxe designs for the Liberty Hotel and for fetes thrown by HBO. It makes sense that this veteran of the event-planning and design worlds developed a niche in bridal blooms as well — he knows his way around parties. He also understands that the most spectacular wedding isn’t about expensive flowers, but about radiating a couple’s individual style. Here, the BlueGuava designer dishes on what makes a shindig blossom.

What’s the first piece of advice you give to brides?

Find a designer you can trust, so you can go with the flow. Nature’s not always consistent; it’s not always reliable. Try to stick to a general color scheme rather than a particular shade or a specific flower variety. That way, if the designer needs to change a flower at the last minute because it doesn’t meet his or her standards, you won’t be massively disappointed.

Are there any flowers that are consistent – that you can choose and know exactly what you’ll get?
Some rose colors are always exact: white, obviously, and also some of the yellows. Orchids are also very consistent around the globe and throughout the seasons. Still, Mother Nature does her own thing sometimes. It’s better to be flexible.

What’s the best way to cut costs?

Do all low centerpieces — ones that are under 14 inches tall. They require fewer flowers in the first place, and there are creative ways to make them seem fuller without using more blooms. A base of hydrangeas is inexpensive and allows for maximum volume. Tall centerpieces that are placed on a pedestal use a lot more flowers, and the volume is impossible to fake. You can also skip the traditional centerpiece entirely: I love the idea of grouping different-size candles with lush flower petals sprinkled in between.

Do you need to stick with what’s in-season or locally grown?

That can help, but honestly, it’s never a guaranteed thing. Last summer was so hot that local flowers really only bloomed for a few weeks; I wound up importing a lot from Holland. I would hate to have a local-only mandate from a client and then not be able to deliver what she wants.

What about ceremony flowers?

To keep costs down, don’t do flowers if you’re at a church. Most churches are beautiful and ornate enough on their own; flowers just don’t get noticed.

What’s a great trend right now?
I’m loving chandeliers that are wrapped in flowers and hung from the ceiling. They’re really impressive and dramatic.

Really? What kinds of flowers look best on a chandelier?

Come on, that’s my trade secret! Okay, they’re silk. But no one really knows — from that height, they look real. You can’t tell if it’s a rose or a peony from that height, either; it just matters that the color scheme is correct.