- Photo: Deborah DeGraffenreid
Kelsey Ter Meer got into floral design by way of farming. In 2011, she had a fresh degree in environmental studies and public policy, with a focus on agriculture, and was toiling the earth of an organic vegetable farm in rural Connecticut. Every Friday, her daily chores included harvesting flowers and making farmstand bouquets for the weekend farmers' market. It was a simple task, but Ter Meer relished this small creative moment during a hard day’s work.
Now, Ter Meer runs her own floral and landscape design team—Heart & Soil Flowers—and continues to take inspiration from the jagged, imperfect patterns of the natural world. “Just look at the way different wildflowers grow in a meadow,” she says. “Mother Nature designs in the most beautiful, humble, unassuming ways.”
After continuing to garden everywhere from Argentina to Greece, Brooklyn to Queens, Ter Meer decided to take her interest in floral design to the next level. She freelanced for florists in the hubbub of New York City, including for Queens County Farm Museum—and used her growing resume as a springboard to start her own company, Heart & Soil Flowers. She curates full-service arrangements for weddings and social events, as well as quirkier, more low-key offerings for DIY weddings and small gatherings.
The natural world is, by definition, unpredictable, and Ter Meer says that working with natural objects as a medium is no different. “Each stem is different, each week is different,” she says. “Working with natural, living, perishable ingredients always keeps you on your toes.”
It’s also important to Ter Meer to work in harmony with the time of year and natural backdrop of any job—not with contrived varieties or overly foreign specimens. “We have such a strong focus on using locally grown, locally foraged, and native varieties,” she says. “It's important to me for my designs to feel in season and a part of the larger surrounding landscape.”
Ter Meer’s approach to the Kingston Design Showhouse front garden is of a “natural meadowscape,” mixing native and edible plants in a way that mimics natural growing patterns. She’ll focus on perennials—though most don’t think of fall as the season for gardening, it turns out to be a fantastic time to plant flowers that pop up yearly, like peonies, daylilies, and delphiniums.
“It gives the plants time to establish good root systems before winter, giving them a leg up in the spring on other plants as they are already somewhat established,” she explains. “You can look out for lots of textural grasses and fall-blooming flowers at the Showhouse in October!”
No matter the season or the task at hand, Ter Meer hopes to evoke an “ebb and flow” found in a hillside in bloom, and avoid a “symmetrical and intensely manicured” look common in suburbia. “We grow in mysterious, non-linear ways,” she says of her creative process. “[I want to] create what people haven't seen and convince them they want that.”