Meredith Waga Perez, the co-founder of top NYC-based florist, Belle Fleur, has graced us with her time and expertise in the field of floristry. Meredith is a true artist and started her career in another creative industry, Fashion. Whilst studying at the world-renowned Parsons School of Design in Paris and New York, Meredith cultivated and honed her refined aesthetic sensibilities. Meredith entered the world of floral design and opened her own floristry business, Belle Fleur, in New York. Her brand’s signature romantic, and classically modern style imbues every bouquet and event she designs for her discerning clientele and has become synonymous with beauty and elegance.
How did you decide to become a florist after having worked in fashion?
I went to Parsons, and soon after landed a job at Calvin Klein. I remember a sweet conversation I had with Calvin, we spoke about our love for flowers and how we tapped into nature as part of our creative process. He was kind enough to introduce me to his personal florist and I began to apprentice on the weekends. I initially thought it would be a smart way to derive more inspiration for fashion design, but quickly realized that I found my true calling.
How would you describe your style?
I’m a romantic and very femme, so my personal style affects the palette, texture and silhouette of each bouquet. I naturally gravitate towards blush, apricot and champagne tones, yet celebrate passion with bright girly-girl pinks, and find balance and serenity with shades of clean neutral whites and greens. The Belle Fleur look has always been about refined elegance, focusing on the quality of fresh blooms, designed in a more European hand-tied clustered fashion and finished with a keep-sake vase.
What are some of your favorite projects you have worked on?
Of course designing florals for Beyonce and Jay-Z’s wedding will be at the top of my favorite events, but that’s just the fancy icing of designing for celebs. Truly my favorite projects happen on any given day. The phone rings and I briefly connect with someone about a gift bouquet that they wish to send. I hear a slice of their personal narrative - whether it’s a man courting a woman after their first date or a dad sending a bouquet to his daughter congratulating her on her first day at a new job, or a friend soothing another friend over a loss - those micro projects give me a sense of purpose, I love being a liaison of sentiment and story-telling using flowers as my medium.
What are the fundamentals of floristry?
It all starts with gorgeous blooms - it’s so hard to mess up on the design of an arrangement if you are working with stellar quality flowers. After the selection is made, you do need to have a good understanding on how to “condition” those particular flowers so that they will continue to bloom and last for days. And as far as the final creation - well that’s just playful art - there’s no right or wrong.
What are your favorite flowers/tulips to work with?
I have literally been in love with the same 6 florals for the full 25 years of owning Belle Fleur - but not in any specific order. Peonies, Tulips, Ranunculus, Anemones, Sweet Peas and Garden Roses. Combined all together, or separated on their own for a mono-botanic bouquet - my gosh, they all take my breath away.
What are a couple of tips you would give to a novice on flower arrangement?
Pour yourself a cup of tea, put on some great tunes, clear the kitchen counter and take out a butcher block cutting board. Set the mood because floral design should be cathartic and creative. Find a lovely julep cup, pitcher, or even mason jar - stay away from anything with an old-fashioned hourglass shape. Invest in a good pair of kitchen scissors or gardening clippers. Purchase your flowers from a farm, a florist, a bodega - but don’t just look at the flower heads, check out the bottom of the stems and leaves - make sure they are fresh bright green, and not rotting, dried-up or bruised. As far as design tips, just have fun and try not to overthink what you’re doing. Again, if the flowers are beautiful, then your creation will be too.
What can you do to ensure that a flower bouquet will last for as long as possible?
Okay, this is a simple step that is often overlooked. Your vase should be washed daily, with detergent, and refilled with cool water. It’s that easy. Another important tip to keep your flowers alive longer is to snip the bottom of the stems (1/4”) each day, they will continue to drink clean water and remain hydrated. If you simply top off the water in your vase and not actually disinfect the vase, the water will become a breeding ground for bacteria and your flowers will perish quickly.
We love that you source a lot of your flowers that you work with directly from Holland. Why do you do this? What’s the process like?
The Netherlands is indeed the land of flowers, they produce more than 2 billion cut flowers per year, which represents roughly 60% of the global trade. Flowers flourish in Holland because of the combination of soil acidity, climate, sea air and sand - it’s the perfect environment for so many varieties to thrive. The farms in the Netherlands are far superior in not just their quality of product, but also in their professional standards with regards to sustainable pesticide-free agriculture.
How do you best prep tulips before arranging them in a vase?
When your tulips arrive, keep the wrapping on so that they remain bundled while getting hydrated. Fill a bucket or kitchen sink with cool water, cut away the paper on the bottom part of the packaged tulips to expose the stems, snip the stems 1-2” on an angle with a sharp knife, kitchen scissors or gardening clippers. Yes, the paper may get soggy since you are submerging the bottom third of the bundle in water, that’s just fine, it’s temporary. Your tulips are very thirsty since they have been traveling out of water on a long flight. Let them sit in water for 3-6 hours, even longer if the stems look droopy. Once they are hydrated, open the paper carefully, snip off the elastic strings, and start by taking one stem at a time, stripping off most of the foliage. There are usually 3 green leaves on each tulip stem, gently peel off the foliage, starting with the larger leaves at the base of the stem. Leave the one smallest leaf on the tulip, which is closest to the head of the flower. You’ll sometimes notice a bit of dirt and sand, that’s just nature clinging to the stem, a quick rinse in the sink will remove the dirt. Snip one inch of the bottom of the stems, this will be your second snip as you already cut the stems hours earlier. As you’re conditioning and prepping, have a clean bucket or vase of cool water just so that your tulips are always in water. Make sure you keep them away from direct sunlight, radiators and bright lamps. Once you’ve cleaned your tulips, you are ready to have fun designing.
Do you like to garden?
Growing up, my mom had the most beautiful peony garden, I think my love for flowers started from a very early age as those memories with her, and the ants, run deep. I’ve been a city dweller for over 30 years, so unfortunately I no longer have a garden to tend to. However, whenever I visit my friends in the suburbs, I bring my clippers and get my fix.
Dry flower arrangements and the pot plants have become increasingly popular over the last couple of years, what are your thoughts?
I think I’ll pass on this trend - I love fresh flowers; dried stems look tired, washed out and sad. I do, however, love pressing flowers in books. There have been so many occasions that I will pick up a book and a flatted petal falls from the pages.
Check out Belle Fleur’s website for fresh blooms and follow them on Instagram!
Website: https://www.bellefleurny.com/Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/bellefleurny/