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Striving for a Blooming Difference


Some floral designers hate "roundy moundies." Almost anyone who has ever sent flowers knows what a roundy moundy is, even if they do not know what those traditional little baskets of flowers are called by those florists who loathe them.

Roundy moundies usually consist of readily available flowers, including mums and baby's breath--the type of arrangement Merlin Olsen has been hawking in Florists' Transworld Delivery ads for years.

"For most shops, (these arrangements) are their bread and butter," said Noel Tribbey, a designer for Lion in the Sun Florals Unique in Solana Beach.

"We don't keep the freezers stocked with cookie-cutter arrangements," he said, putting the finishing touches on one of the shop's trademark pieces. "We hate baby's breath at this shop. . . . We like to use a lot of unusual materials. . . . Things you wouldn't usually associate with flower design."

Instead of burdening their arrangements with an abundance of ordinary flowers, floral designers--as they prefer to be called--often use exotic or tropical flowers in sparse, angular arrangements that call special attention to each flower's beauty and shape. Some of the flowers Lion in the Sun frequently use include ti leaves, orchid stems, bird of paradise, kiwi vine, banana blossoms, heliconia, anthurium and succulents.

"Each flower has its own space, with a lot of negative space around it," Tribbey said. "The negative space is almost as important as the space that is filled by the flower."

Several flower shops in North County produce contemporary designs similar to the ones Lion in the Sun specializes in, a style of arranging that shop manager John Pavich describes as "perishable art."

"An artist uses paint to make a picture. We use flowers," he said.

On average, a Lion in the Sun arrangement costs about $65, which is $35-$40 more than an arrangement might cost at a traditional flower shop. Pavich says about half of the shop's business is producing arrangements for offices, hotels and restaurants.

Their private customers aren't the special-occasion buyers who only frequent flower shops once or twice a year. "Our clientele are more floral-oriented as far as everyday flower usage goes," Pavich said.

One Del Mar woman orders several Lion in the Sun arrangements from Pavich every week. "We constantly have fresh flowers in the home (and) they do beautiful work," she said. "(It's) very unique."

Pavich and his designers have visited the woman's home several times to familiarize themselves with each room's color scheme. That way, Pavich says, arrangements are designed for specific rooms.

Pavich and Lion in the Sun owner Lee Cantley are members of the American Institute of Floral Designers, an international organization with about 600 members. Pavich is on the organization's national board of directors.

The association is dedicated to the promotion and recognition of "floral design as an art form," said Marsha Wight, AIFD's national coordinator in Baltimore. "You're not going to find anything these guys do in an FTD directory."

Of the more than 100 florists working in North County, only six designers in four shops have gone through the rigorous application process to become an AIFD member.

Tribbey, 30, submitted his portfolio to AIFD earlier this year and will know whether he moves on to the next stage of the application process after the organization's national symposium in Newport Beach this month.

In the meantime, Tribbey has been doing very well in regional floral competitions. He will represent the San Diego Retail Florists Assn. at a statewide competition in October.

Tribbey says floral design is a logical extension of his earlier work as a sculptor and professional artist. "I look at myself more as an artist than as a florist, (but) it is very hard for an artist to make enough of a living to support a family," he said. "(Floral design) was the one thing I could do that would keep my hands doing art. . . .This way I can express myself artistically every day."

Tribbey acknowledges that his current work may not end up standing in a park, or in front of an office building--but it may make it into the lobby.

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