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Q&A with Madame Chrysanthemum

October 15th, 2014

Savannah is a hotbed of artistic talent, thanks in part to the presence of the Savannah College of Art and Design, as well as a laid-back atmosphere that fosters the kind of “why not?!” vibe that is conducive to exciting and avant-garde design. Floral and event designer Michele Mikulec, otherwise known as Madame Chrysanthemum, is an integral part of the scene and shares some of her thoughts on her favorite subject, flowers.

Michele, first of all, we LOVE Madame Chrysanthemum! Our editor still raves about the flowers you did for a brunch she hosted in Savannah. Tell us a bit about your background—were you raised by “flower/garden people?”

Funny enough, I was not raised by “flower/garden” people, but my very first job at 15 was at Flower Time, a garden center and greenhouse in Levittown, New York. That’s where I began my love affair with all things floral. I remember one spring morning walking into the greenhouse and being taken aback by the vision of hundreds and hundreds of tulips and hyacinths. The smell alone was amazing.

As for my family, they are quite creative. I was lucky to be surrounded and influenced by strong, smart, talented women who worked in the garment district and on Broadway as master patternmakers, seamstresses, and designers—fabricators of all things beautiful.


How did you come up with the name Madame Chrysanthemum?

After months and months of brainstorming, I happened to be looking through a book on the history of flowers. I came upon this painting of a woman in white, sitting in front of a wall of white chrysanthemums. The painting’s title was something along the lines of The Lady in White—Madame Chrysanthemum, although I don’t remember the exact title. I knew instantly that Madame Chrysanthemum was it. There’s a certain sassiness to it, a playfulness. I did not want a “regular” name for the store because I knew, that my store would not be even remotely considered “a regular flower shop.

Describe your shop. It sounds like fun and full of eye candy.

I like to say the store is an explosion of colors and beautiful, sparkly things. I am not afraid of color, glitter, or birds, for that matter. I’m obsessed with birds, bugs, and butterflies in my arrangements, so those find a home in my shop too.


Your work is so exuberant and yet never over the top. What’s your secret?

Well, I feel like my style is constantly evolving. I’m more partial to tighter, fuller designs. But as in all things creative, I know that my work will change as I do and experience things in life.

What do you see in the world of floral and event design that you embrace and what do you eschew?

I love the use of natural elements—branches, moss, rocks, found objects, etc. I am seriously over the whole DIY, Etsy wedding. Enough of this please!

What are some of your design inspirations?

I live for color, so my work is inspired by my paint palette. I’m influenced by sculpture, because I view everything I do as a living piece of art. The novel Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel is about a woman whose passion for life permeates her food. That’s how I view my own work—my passion flows into my flowers. And Dutch and Japanese floral designers are so amazing. I’m constantly striving to learn from their incredible talent.

What kind of arrangements do you design for your own house?

I don’t have flower arrangements, per se, I prefer to have cool-shaped branches I find outside. I like how found wood has its own beauty. But when I do have flowers, I prefer tight bunches of similar flowers. Very simple!

Fall arrangement by Kiana Underwood of Tulipina

October 3rd, 2014

“The other day when I was at the market I noticed these stunning zinnias. Well, their color really captured me, and so I decided to make an arrangement combining the colors that I saw in these lovely zinnias, a really bright orange and magenta! If you look closely inside the orange zinnias, you can see that on some there is a line of magenta around the center. So, I went to town on this color theme using some lovely garden phlox to really bring out the magenta!”—Kiana Underwood

Supply List

  • snips
  • zinnia
  • garden phlox
  • pumpkin tree branches
  • marigold
  • smoke

(I also used a floral frog [kenzan/pin style] as the vase is rather shallow and the pumpkin branches are top heavy. The kenzan is a great way to secure those branches)


Step 1: Start with the pumpkin tree. (You may not be able to clearly see, but the pumpkin tree branches would have toppled over if I had not used the frog.)


Step 2: Add the smoke. I love the color of these leaves – they add a beautiful darker shade of purple!


Step 3: Now add the marigold and phlox. As is typical of my style, I wanted to create an “unstructured” asymmetric look for this arrangement.


Step 4: Arrange the zinnias in the vase. You can really see their magenta center in this shot!


Step 5: I felt like some more marigold was needed – so I added a bit extra! Examine the piece from all angles. If you are satisfied with how it looks, then you are done!


Styling and design by Kiana Underwood tulipina.com

Instagram/Twitter: @tulipinadesign

Photography by N. Underwood nruphoto.com

The Horticultural Society of New York

September 30th, 2014

Calling all botanical lovers: if you’re in New York City anytime between now and November 26, make sure you stop by “The Hort” (aka The Horticultural Society of New York) for the 17th Annual American Society of Botanical Artists exhibition. Sneak peek below of the some of the work that will be for sale—for more information on the exhibit visit thehort.org.



Word to the wise

September 29th, 2014


Photo by Rob Cardillo

Every leaf is a flower

September 22nd, 2014


Photo via: Kelly Hulsey, Hulsey Gardens