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Meet the Avant-Garde Florist Whose Foraged Creations Are Pure Art

For Louesa Roebuck, it's all natural.

October 28, 2022

Full of personality, heirloom roses grown in the Sierra Foothills are a far cry from their mass-cultivated relatives.

IAN HUGHES

Louesa Roebuck never planned to become a florist. Born in Ohio, she studied at RISD before moving to California, where she became immersed in Alice Waters’s farm-to-table movement; after that, she entered the world of sustainable luxury fashion. During her hour-and-a-half daily commute between Marin County and Oakland, she found herself stopping to forage for flowers and plants, which she used to create arrangements for herself, her shop, and friends; when her business shuttered in the wake of the 2008 financial crash, that part-time endeavor became an all-encompassing passion.

“I was surprised to find that people who were religious about eating organic, hyper-local foods weren’t applying that same practice to their floral arts,” Roebuck recalls. Her work—favored by the likes of Vivienne Westwood, Michael Pollan, and Todd Selby—is comprised exclusively of locally foraged and “gleaned” flora, arranged in handmade or vintage or found vessels; a lichen-covered branch from a winter forest is given the same respect as lush roses grown in a friend’s garden. “For me, whether it’s fashion or food or flowers, everything comes back to the same elements of composition— color story, negative space, texture,” she explains.

  • Nasturtium leaves and eggplant flowers teeter on a Los Angeles rooftop.

    Ian Hughes
  • “I try to embrace every part of the life cycle,” says Roebuck, who mixed rose branches with milkweed seed pods and castor.

    Ian Hughes

In her new book, Punk Ikebana: Reimagining the Art of Floral Design (Cameron Books), Roebuck expands on her ethos in terms that are at once poetic and practical. “Like many things in Japanese culture, ikebana is very codified and rule-bound. I’m influenced by the practice, but I’m not a formal practitioner. I like to bend the rules—that’s the California punk in me,” she says. “I’m not about being an expert; I’m about empowering people to forage and glean and gather and grow. There’s no right way to do it.”

Local poppies, which spring from wildfire-ravaged environs, embody Roebuck’s circular ethos.

Ian Hughes

THIS STORY ORIGINALLY APPEARED IN THE FALL 2022 ISSUE OF FREDERIC. CLICK HERE TO SUBSCRIBE