Listen: Cultivated: The Elements of Floral Style with Christin Geall, The Earth In Her Hands #4
"One of the more colorful and visible of the areas of horticulture Flora Street and floral design with a past guest Kristen Gill cultivated based in British Columbia Canada. In one thousand nine hundred eighty one the writer Elinor. Poranee wrote green thoughts a writer in the garden. A collection of essays. It culminated with a provocative essay entitled Woman's Place in it. Eleanor posits a theory. For the centuries long association between women and Flower Gardening suggesting that it was a male engineered incarceration of sorts based on the quote superstitious fear. That women were in league with nature in some ways that men were not and quote this male dominated societal gifting of the contained flower garden to the realm of women thus simultaneously catered to end kept women and their power in check perennials historical line of inquiry opens wide sexism in horticulture including floriculture refreshingly. Rereading the piece got me thinking about the self actualized successful women reclaiming and operating from positions of power and intellect and care with their use of flowers and floral design in this first part of the Twenty First Century Christian Gille demonstrates vividly that women are no longer incarcerated in the flower garden. Flowers are there horticultural medium for leading an educating others acting not as pretty cages but as colorful vibrant socratic forums for critical thinking and action. Christians photographs of her carefully executed. Floral designs often using organically home grown blooms. Greens branches and fruits are paired with pros. That reflects on issues of time and place as much as on environmental and cultural literacy. Her pros ranges from changing tastes in and views on color theory plant selection ecology and literary criticism to personal and socio political commentary to my mind. Kristen is to flowers. What MFA Fisher was to food writing in the second? Half of the Twentieth Century Christians new book cultivated. The elements of floral style is out this month from Princeton architectural press. It is available everywhere. Books are sold. Kristen and I recorded this conversation remotely just one month ago in late. February right before the two of us were headed to Seattle for the Northwest Flower Garden Show. Our entire world has changed dramatically since then and yet perhaps now more than ever the creativity and the thinking and hands on activities and skills that is a life with plants remains more essential than ever. Welcome to this conversation and welcome Kristen. Hello Jennifer lovely to speak with you again. So tell us. I think it's been two years. Kristen since we last spoke maybe even a little bit longer. But I am very pleased to be holding your book in my hand and to have your photography and you're just inimitable writing and thinking altogether in one beautiful little package. Tell us and tell listeners. What is your current. What do you do right now? Like what are your jobs? And how do you describe your current plant based Practice Kristen? Oh it's diverse mounting our time keeping track of it all lately. I think it's going to be a slow year in the garden of with the book. Coming out everything has changed and I will be doing. A number of speaking events Around the country and in England and also in Canada and trying to get the book out into the World MMA team of one here so I am also still trying to take photographs when I can but we are. Speaking of February for people are listening at another time of year. So it's just coming into seating season for me and I do have a small urban flower farm here and produce cut flowers that will either sell wholesale or direct consumer and to private clients so that's predominantly what I'm doing. I'd like to be working on another book but I just haven't had the bandwidth for it just yet. Yeah because the diversity of all those things is really It's demanding and it's it's important and we're GONNA get more into that when we talk about the book and why it was important for you to put your flower practice into this new form But first let's refresh listeners. Memories with your own background and a little bit about where you grew up in the people in places implants that that grew into a person for whom this would be a calling. Well not one of those who can conjure the memory of a grandmother or anything so romantic. I grew up in downtown Toronto in in Canada. And my experience of nature at that time was predominantly That of wilderness. And I mean not in a very Canadian sense of the word so while I had a healthy respect for nature and knew how to navigate my way chop wood carry water paddle canoes. Swim Lake Sales Ski a number of those things they weren't related to horticulture in any way and In my early twenties I are actually when I was still a teenager. I did go off an Work with an herbalist in. Martha's on Martha's Vineyard Massachusetts for the summers and that really domesticated me at my understanding of nature and I have not swayed from that position since I live in British Columbia now on Vancouver Island which is largely wilderness. And I don't spend much time out with the big trees or the big waves on truth be told. I've now focused on gardening and that world A few other things happened. In between those years I went back to the land in my early twenties and homesteaded and lasted about five years carving a garden out of the Bush on an island British combat was off Grad and then I went to Q. Gardens in England in the midst of that while I still own that property to intern and knew that through doing that that I didn't really want to be a fulltime horticulturalist but I wasn't sure exactly what I wanted to be. Thought I wanted to be at landscape architect Because I felt that it was interpretive in some way and about people in place in some way and I did complete. A degree in environmental studies and anthropology was exposed to a lot of ethnic. Botany my twenty s and then I had a baby and decided writing at are always carried me through all of these endeavors and so I did a graduate degree right so having this book now where I get to Mary. Environmental Thinking and Horticulture with creative writing was a joy actually and that is a beautiful distillation of some of the bigger threads in your life and and some of what comes up so beautifully in the book. This idea of the bill. Land and the environmentalism and the formal design sense and literary sense and context are all really rich threads in the book in a way that is that there is something really meaningful to someone like me who is a verbal person office obviously and that context in the bigger scheme of things where flowers and design and thinking about them in Artistry. Sit In our longest deepest cultures. I found just powerful and beautiful. So so let's move to the book. There are so many books in in Florists and flowers and why this book why now what was what was your personal purpose with this book. I being student of writing and also a past student of horticulture. I felt that there was a place for even more literary book about flowers. I think in a way when I first began the project. I would've been happy to have no photos in it but I think I short change my skills photographer. People seem to really love the flowers and they do serve as a as a good teaching tool for what it is. I'm discussing and a number of the books that are out. There have been designed like cookery books in so far there recipe based and for me living on an island in Canada. I didn't have access to those products and I figured while there must be many people like me that cannot get themselves to a flower market in order to purchase these items so they're stuck with what they have in their gardens. So how did they create that? How can they still or maybe they might grow some of the flowers that are fashionable in required for these recipes. But it's like trying to find a Rambutan in in my local grocery store at these things are so difficult to find. So let's make a book at out the principles of design so that once a person is versed in knows principals. They can apply them to whatever product they have at hand and of course for many people who have had to take the basics of English or the written language The famous strunk and White. The elements of style should come to mind immediately. I think it might be out of fashion by but I and I know it is. It is stronger in American audiences but my editor came up with that and I had to laugh and I did write about this in the book because I actually had to teach and elements of style class when I was out of graduate school to Undergrad and I had this and this crowd of poets and journalists and fiction writers all in one room because it was an elective in the writing department and I had to address. What is style? What is style? How do these young people who are craving style of their own? How do they conjure that? And I did it through you talke about syntax talking about punctuation talking about nounce talking about verbs and in a similar way in this book I wanted to really break style down into Lessens the lessons of designer the principles of design and I will say I think I was heavily influenced by the fact that my call. The shirt is Princeton architectural press and there was just something about that word architecture. All that made me feel like Oh my goodness I better know what I'm talking about. In terms of designed they did not put that rigor upon me by the way but my editor was fantastic and wonderful to work with and she's one came up with the subtitle. Yeah it's it's beautiful and it does Q. Us up as readers as to what to expect. And how and why? This is a little different than a lot of the very beautiful flower books that that we have out there. So talk about the structure and You you just got started referring to how you were going to put it together. But let's maybe go through the sections and have you talked to us about what you were trying to achieve in each one and some of the different elements in each section so that readers get a sense of it. Sure it opens with Something quite conventional the beyond the introduction which I think is wonderful The finding flowers and plant so in that section I address Growing flowers forging moving beyond flowers into vegetables and other plants. I'm shopping for flowers. Caring for flowers. Some of the basics are in there but also the idea of conveying a sense of place and working in a garden style or working with what it is you have. Some of the environmental messaging comes across there. Then I talk about Vessels and mechanics and that that's actually a little more fun than you would think. There's physics in the air. There's definitely a lot of history in terms of the different vessels styles and the."