Master Class: Natural Instinct
It’s easy to be intimidated by flowers — the fragility, the impermanence, the expense! Fear not: Floral designer Cristina Lozito is here to share her secrets for creating exquisitely organic arrangements.
March 2, 2019
Cristina Lozito is known for her delicate bouquets; works of art as lyrical as a Dutch still life. The self-taught florist credits the natural world, her mother, a background in photography, and work as a photo editor at Brides Magazine for teaching her to "let flowers be flowers." Based in Westchester, New York, she's styled flowers for hundreds of weddings, bat mitzvahs, photo shoots, birthday parties, and cocktail galas. We asked her for advice even the most hesitant botanist can bring home.
Q: Your colors are so subdued and your arrangements look almost wild. What's your overall philosophy regarding bouquets and floral pieces?
A: I tend to be drawn to softer colors, which inform a lot of my palettes. But even when I work with a brighter palette I incorporate gradations of color and a variety of shades. If a client wants an overall red or yellow scheme, I use shades of reds or yellows so things don't look so fixed.
I also use floral varieties that naturally fit the style I want to achieve. I look for blooms or foliage that fall gracefully. For example, I'll always use a garden rose rather than a standard rose, since the stem is so much more natural. I would never put something stiff or spiky in an organic bouquet. I don't ever try to force a flower to be something that it isn't.
Q: Where do you start when putting together an arrangement?
A: I always start with a color palette and what's in season. I think about what's happening in nature at that moment to find my inspiration. In spring that means flowering branches: the soft, tender greens that don't exist at any other time of year. It's my favorite season to arrange in because everything's so fresh. But even in winter, I supplement flowers from the market with what's happening outside — dried grasses and branches.
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Q: Once you've chosen your flowers, how do you go about building an arrangement? Do you think about geometric forms or the vessel you're using?
A: Nature tends to begin each process. For example, if I'm designing something in summer I might think about how it would look if you scooped up a meadow of wildflowers. Wouldn't that be so amazing!?
After I have my flowers and color palette, I'll think proportionately about the right vessel. Big blooms like hydrangea or peonies will dictate a larger vessel. You want the style of the vessel to hold hands with the flowers.
Q: Your striking use of greenery never looks like filler. How do you manage that?
A: That's easy — I start with the greenery! I never treat it as filler in my head. I'm thinking about the overall shape as I place it, using the greenery to create the highs and lows of the arrangement, then going in and adding the flowers.
Q: Asymmetry is your signature. How do you achieve a floral vignette that is pleasing yet never too "perfect"?
A: I have a bit of a formula that pulls from my photography background: I create the arrangement's overall shape using the rule of thirds. Instead of placing the focal point in the middle, I place a focal flower about two-thirds of the way up on one side of the arrangement and balance that with another focal flower on the bottom third of the other side. That leads your eye in without having something big staring at you from the middle.
Q: Let's say someone comes to dinner with a bouquet of supermarket flowers. What can you do to it to make it look beautiful?
A: After expressing profuse thanks, the easiest way to loosen it up is to pull in some greenery. Typically a supermarket bouquet won't have any foliage. Go outside and clip something from the yard, or cut greenery from a houseplant — I have a begonia and a geranium that come in very handy.
Q: Are there any tools that make your job easier? What would you recommend for someone doing their own flowers at home?
A: My favorite tool is a floral frog, the little device placed in the bottom of the vessel that holds the stems in place. There are all different types—glass, metal, pincushion, cages — and any will work, depending on the type of arrangement and the flowers.
Q: Along the same lines, is there a type or shape of vessel that is easiest for a newbie to work with?
A: Anything with a wider mouth gives your flowers a more flowing, organic look. This eliminates most of the vases that come from the florist, which typically have narrow or tapered tops. I most often use wide rather than tall vases because they're sitting on tables, and low vessels promote ease of conversation.
Q: One of your Instagram captions reads "rarely is there no room for a little blue." Is that something you strive for?
A: I think that's something I got from my time at Brides! I've been working in weddings for so long and it's a nod to tradition—I love the idea of "something blue." There's really no palette that doesn't work with a little dusty blue. Sometimes I tuck it in the back of a bouquet so just the bride can see it.
Q: Lighting round! Can you name one specific flower or type of greenery that you're drawn to working with as the seasons change?
A: For sure. Spring: crabapple branches. Summer: cosmos. Fall: yellow or pink foliage from sugar maples, which can't be replicated at any other point of the year. Winter: hellebore, also known as winter roses. They're so friendly; they look as though they're talking to the flower next to them.
Q: Is there any type of flower you feel is too stiff or formal to work with?
A: Standard roses are so processed, there's not much about them that's organic.
Q: Is there a go-to place in a home where flowers make the biggest impact? Or do you like placing arrangements in spots that create a visual surprise?
A: I like both. I love an entryway arrangement — it's such a cheerful greeting and a lovely way to be welcomed into a house. I also like to use small bud vases in unexpected places. My mom would always keep small bud vases on a shelf above the sink, filled with little flowers, grasses, and even weeds. It would make you stop and focus for a moment. She taught me that just a stem or two can have a profound emotional impact.
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