Exploring Books

Following the Flowers

By Karen Ott Mayer | Photography courtesy of Southerly Media and Karen Ott Mayer

Newly released book follows Memphis florists’ journeys around the world as they create floral arrangements for all kinds of celebrations.

Rare is the profession built upon the sun as it circles the globe. And perhaps even less common are the people who chase it and the seasons.
Within the 192 pages of the newly-released “Florists to the Field,” we are introduced and reminded of how the ever-present and accessible cut flower is still so intricately tied to a place, a field or a farm. And not often in the same hemisphere or country as the seller.
From Oregon to Holland, Israel to South America, Garden District founders and co-owners Greg Campbell and Erick New lead us down a new floral path. Their Memphis, Tennessee shop is already known for its unique artistry and unabashed style that has graced countless events, weddings and celebrations. Now, they’ve ventured into a new space with “Florists to the Field.”
When the thought about compiling a book occasionally crossed their minds, the veteran floral professionals and designers couldn’t find a truly inspiring topic. “We thought about a Christmas book, but that didn’t feel quite right,” says New. Just like their genuine styles, a book couldn’t exist without an honest connection to their work.
After talking about it, the pair literally found grounding in the very roots of their 20-year old floral business and their relationships with growers and flower farms.
“We have worked with suppliers all over the world for decades and we decided it would be interesting to actually go to them, in the field, and offer to design from the field,” says New.In many cases, the Memphians had neither visited nor set foot on any of the farms from which they had purchased for many years.
So, the pair began following the seasons as they have done for years. This time, they captured their work on the page. One favored flower, the peony, tells the tale of how these florists follow the flower.
“We start the season out in Oregon, move across the U.S. with the warmer climates, then to Israel and New Zealand as the seasons change,” New explains. “We circle the globe and start over again here.”
Peonies are just one small example in a vast floral landscape that includes elegant orchids, tropicals, and delphiniums.

While the finished book is breathtakingly exquisite in design and photography, its true strength and humor lies in the pursuit of the chase. From Oregon to Holland, New and Campbell tromped out in fields, hauling their clippers and supplies with them, designing with what was available – sometimes while growers stood by in curious confusion. Unlike other farm-to-table events which are orchestrated and staged, these florists relied on each farmer to tell them what they wanted as far as their own event.
“Some suppliers wanted to hold a dinner to say thanks to their customers, another just wanted a quiet dinner for two.”
Despite the planning, everything didn’t always go perfectly according to expectations. At one peony farm, the pair arrived to find… no peonies. “They had just harvested all the peonies!” says New. Nonetheless, the designing duo scrounged and sourced until they found enough floral materials to create a final arrangement that fully reflected the farm and plants grown there.
In Wilson, Arkansas, Campbell and New set a dinner table in a cotton field. In Holland, they helped plan a surprise party. The pair found themselves working in the open elements, in barns and in sheds. Nothing was staged in studios.
If the farmers got an education in floral artistry, Campbell and New discovered each operation was as different as the geography.
“Nothing is guaranteed…except in Holland,” says New with a laugh. “Everything is controlled under glass, and the growing is so exact they can tell us how many flowers will be harvested on a specific day. In Oregon, a farm is completely different…more wild and informal.”
The pair began working on the book in October 2016 and spent 18 months traveling, designing and compiling. Today, they are back home temporarily at the Garden District until a formal book tour begins.
Originally located in Midtown Memphis, the Garden District has been located in East Memphis on Sanderlin since 2003. The shop itself feels like no other florist and for good reason. The pair laughed when asked about their training.
“We needed a job. We’ve never been conventional in our thinking or designs, always playing with our own style.”
Their work also knows no boundaries as New and Campbell travel the country for client’s weddings – from the East Coast to out West.
In late April, locals gathered under a white tent in front of the shop, celebrating the book’s arrival and launch. With live music, a friendly Golden Retriever, lots of food and laughter, the event felt apropos…close to home and in the shop where so many relationships have blossomed and grown across the globe.

southerlymedia.com/florists-to-the-field

Read More in DeSoto Magazine online.