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Ariella Chezar on her relentless pursuit of beauty in nature

The celebrated floral designer on the beauty in nature and foraged flowers and her new book, 'Home in Bloom'

09 March 2024
By: Emily Armstrong
Photography: Gentl & Hyers, others courtesy of Ariella Chezar

Ariella Chezar's relentless pursuit of beauty extends well beyond flowers, permeating every facet of her daily life. In her latest book, Home in Bloom, Ariella encourages one to bring nature inside. But not just the perfect specimens - all of it! The brambles, the weeds and that perfect rose cut just that morning from the hedgerow.

Originally from New York, the child of committed back-to-the-landers who instilled in her a love of beauty and of the natural world, Ariella started her business in the Mediterranean climate of the San Francisco Bay Area. The foraged elements coming into the flower market there were unlike anything available in New York or Boston at the time. Where those markets relied heavily on imported blooms, the San Francisco market was filled with wild bits, vines, fruit on the branch and It was these ingredients that encouraged a wilder, more natural approach to arranging flowers. Ariella’s first book, Flowers for the Table, was dedicated to this wilder approach, and landed features in House and Garden, Martha Stewart, Oprah, and more. Her name became synonymous with the free-flowering, uncontrived 'garden style' which has been in vogue for the past twenty years, though Ariella maintains that this is not 'her' style, rather the style of any designer who works in close connection with the natural world, with Constance Spry being the true originator of this natural style. 

10 years ago she started growing on a large scale on her land in upstate New York calling it Zonneveld Farm. Her mother's maiden name was Zonneveld, which translates to Sunny Field. With the goal of growing flowers for her events, workshops, and supplying her colleagues in New York, Zonneveld was a brief exploration in growing her own flowers. Though the scale she took on was ultimately more than she could manage, the thrill of growing her own flowers and specialty cultivars was deeply satisfying. Currently she is focused on her home gardens, teaching, lecturing, and events. 

Here we chat with Ariella about the start of her 30 year career as a floral designer, her inspirations and her beautiful new book, Home in Bloom.

Please tell us a little about your upbringing and early aspirations...
Born in NY City to a Dutch mother and a New Yorker father, my parents left the city when I was 3 months old and moved to the Berkshires of Massachusetts along with so many other back-to-the-landers of their generation. My sister and I grew up in the house that my father built eating produce that the two of them had grown. We spent most of our time outside gathering treasures, making collections and playing in all the ways that kids who grow up in nature typically do.
And your journey to becoming a florist - tell us abut the pivotal moment when studying classical singing, that you came across flowers…
My mother was an artist, painter primarily but everything she touched was an extension of her creative self. She worked in nearly every medium, but not flowers! Beyond growing lots of them. Two family friends, both garden and floral designers opened my eyes to the possibility of making a career as a florist and the prospect of having flowers as one’s medium and being involved in celebrations was deeply appealing.

Ariella's renowned flower installations, as featured in her new book 'Home in Bloom'.

Life is short. Create and find joy as often as one can...

    You’ve said a florist is only as good as it’s tools - how important is choosing the flowers? What do you look for and what your favourites….
    Well it’s true isn't it!? Choosing fresh, vibrant beautiful flowers is the key to making beautiful arrangements. Naturally those plucked from your own garden or a nearby farm will always be, hands down, the most gorgeous. I am always paying attention to new cultivars and colors as well as re-visiting old familiar friends year after year.

    What does your new book, Home in Bloom celebrate and who is it created for?
    This book was created for those who know flowers and those who don’t. This book celebrates not only the showstoppers, but equally, the weeds.

    Can anyone learn to style flowers? Tell us about your love of teaching creativity with nature… 
    As mediums go, flowers are perhaps the most forgiving and as such yes, I think anyone can learn. One can never go wrong with a single element cluster if in doubt. It’s often in the combining of too many elements in too many different colors that things might go awry. Teaching is so deeply gratifying because flowers are such an easy entry point to creativity. Their vibrant life force takes precious little effort to translate easily and magically into something beautiful and one doesn’t need to be 'good at it' to get that satisfaction. 

    Your style of flower design is wild and free which we love so much - how did this differ from what was out there when you began and how did you stay true to your instincts? 
    Pretty much everything was quite tight and 'French'- lots of roundy moundies. Very bloom focused with very little foliage. I grew up in the sticks and when I moved to the Bay Area, even though it is not rural, the foraged elements coming into the San Francisco flower market were abundant. Unlike the New York market which was more bloom focused. Though my name became synonymous with with this 'new' wild, natural, garden style, it certainly wasn’t me who started it. I, like all designers before me who incorporated wild and natural bits into their work was responding to what I had access to.


    You’ve spoken before about your mother, Famke Zonneveld and how inspiring and influential she has been. Can you tell us more?
    Born in Indonesia, she spent her early years in a Japanese concentration camp and after the war was sent, with all the Dutch living in Indonesia, to Holland where she grew up. One of the things I admire most about her boundless creativity was how it translated to resourcefulness and how her early deprivation instilled in her an ability to make something from nothing. I find that this quality is one of the most important qualities as a designer. It’s not so much about have 100,000 roses, it’s more about working with what you have, no matter how humble, and making something out of it. 

    What about the relationship with the farm-to-flowers movement and how you and your husband have created, Zonneveld Farm…
    Any of us who have grown flowers knows that there is really nothing more satisfying than cultivating and cutting your own flowers. That spurred my desire. It was my near rabid appetite for abundant flowers and for special cultivars. That said, after several years of growing flowers in addition to doing events, workshops, books and raising two children, the endless growing failures have taken their toll. It was pretty much me and thousands of flowers and I was not able to keep up. So I’ve taken a pause from the farm with the intention to re-visit again with a better supported structure. Now I just grow in my small home garden, a very modest amount of vegetables and flowers. 

    What are some of your all-time favourite floral event projects… 
    Favorite events are always the ones with clients who don’t hold me too tightly. 

    Where is your happy place?
    Walking my three Great Pyrenees rescues in the woods behind my house. 

    What’s your dream travel itinerary?
    Any place that involves connection with other flower lovers. Most of my destination workshops, whether in Guatemala, Mexico or The Netherlands have become my excuses for connecting with new and old flower friends and exploring the flora of a particular place.

    How do you unwind? What’s your favourite thing to do when not ‘working’? 
    Cooking with and for friends. I love a house full of people. 

    What does wellness mean to you? 
    Moving my body in nature and nourishing myself, my children and my animals with gorgeous, vibrant food. 

    What advice would you give women at a career crossroads and looking to lean into creative pursuits?
    Life is short. Create and find joy as often as one can.

    It’s not so much about have 100,000 roses, it’s more about working with what you have, no matter how humble, and making something out of it.

    Lets Play Favourites - Ariella Chezar

    Flower – impossible!
    Artist – Maggie Mailer
    Fashion Designer - Valentino
    Interior Designer – Axel Vervoort
    Scent / Fragrance – Weleda Skin Food
    Travel destination/s – Mexico
    Book – All The Light We Cannot See (Anthony Doerr)
    Podcast – New Yorker Radio Hour
    Film – The Lives Of Others
    TV Show - anything British
    Wellness ritual – walking in the woods with my dogs
    Colour – Green
    Beauty product essential – Long list, only clean
    Make-up must-have –  Liquid liner & Mascara
    Fashion label – Ulla Johnson
    Wardrobe essential/s – Blundstones
    Season – Spring
    Restaurant and/or Meal – anything my friend Jennifer Lee cooks
    Muse – nature
    Era or decade – 1980’s
    Time of day – Dusk
    Day of the week – Friday
    Guaranteed laugh - my friend Chris Lee
    Quote/Mantra – The world needs beauty

    Ariella Chezar's new book Home in Bloom is out now. 
    Join Ariella Chezar, Shane Connolly and Lucy Hunter for A Floral Masterclass inspired by the garden, on 21 May at the Garden Museum in London.
    For more of Ariella's work, visit & follow @arlellachezardesign.
    Photography: Gentl & Hyers, others courtesy of Ariella Chezar.