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Floral designer brings ‘Element’ of surprise

High-end blooms, plenty of texture and a touch of the rustic: These are the ingredients in Jackie Girard’s floral designs.

Her creations, which grace events ranging from weddings to corporate and college functions, teem with striking and unexpected pairings, making them look more like the subjects of a Dutch master still life than your average bouquet.

For a recent wedding, Ms. Girard pulled out all the stops. Two of her arrangements used up-cycled containers, a carved piece of found wood and a well-aged wooden bucket, to house a riot of plants and posies.

There were purple hydrangeas, lavender Amnesia Roses, ruffled ranunculus, purple-hearted kale, cascading amaranths, climbing Bells of Ireland, delicate scabiosa pods and fist-sized artichokes.

The vibrant selection, which provides the inquiring viewer with a veritable education in horticulture, is par for the course for Ms. Girard.

“I particularly love this one,” she said, indicating the bucket arrangement

Ms. Girard, the mother of 2 boys, has dabbled in freelance floral design over the years and has always thrown herself into home gardening. At her Upland home,  her current spring garden features an array of shrubs, herbs and flowers including a mass planting of purple irises. It wasn’t until September of 2011, however, that she decided to give flowers her full attention.

She set up her business, Element  Home and Garden, renting a space amid Ivy House Antiques and Home Décor on Foothill Boulevard. It is far enough from the Claremont Village that customers don’t have to jockey for parking spaces, Ms. Girard notes.

Along with providing headquarters for her flower arranging, it has room for wares such as silk flowers, dried lavendar by the scopp, old silver- and copperware, antique furnishings, garden décor and entertainment-themed gifts ranging from $5 to $150. Her husband also contributes, collaborating on projects such as a chandelier light fixture housed in a vintage birdcage.

Ms. Girard adores her shop, which is bathed in light and features a pitched wood ceiling, concrete floors and a patio.

“It inspires me,” she said. “And it’s been a wonderful fit with the Ivy House because we complement each other.”

Her enthusiasm is the hallmark of someone who came into her calling later in life.

“I took the step and I love it. I feel it’s what I should be doing,” she said. “My number-one passion is horticulture, and making relationships has been so gratifying.”

One such relationship has been with Ivy House proprietor Jackie Dunn, who has become one of her biggest boosters. Ms. Dunn is an interior designer and she often asks “the other Jackie” to create silk floral designs as a finishing touch for a client. Ms. Girard has been a real asset to the Ivy House and its customers, she said.

“I think she’s the best florist,” Ms. Dunn enthused. “No event is ever the same. She’s got a great work ethic and she’s fun to be around.”

 Ms. Girard’s floral design business has grown steadily over the last 2 years until she now does about 5 events a month. Most customers come to her through word-of-mouth. Sometimes she will leave a lovely arrangement at Wolfe’s Market with a card, a symbiotic arrangement that enhances the store’s décor and gives her exposure. She’s ready to expand further, although she admits she relishes the rare weekend when she doesn’t have a wedding so she can get to work in her garden.

Other than a touch of floral snobbery (Ms. Girard notes with pride, “I’ve never worked with a carnation in my life”), she is a down-to-earth person who draws endless happiness from helping plants do beautiful things.

“It’s intuitive—it’s God using my hands,” she said of her process. “I just get out of the way and let God take control.”

Operating her own retail space has involved a bit of a learning curve. Ms. Girard has learned not to panic on days when she doesn’t make a sale, because inevitably someone comes along who makes a bigger purchase that helps the bottom line.

She is a classic, self-taught artisan, with her only training including a weekend gig at a florist shop at age 18. Ms. Girard has a hand in every aspect of a client’s event. She likes to see the venue first in order to ensure that her designs complement the space, and hand-picks her blooms from Mayesh Wholesale Florist in Los Angeles, which specializes in high-quality cut flowers from around the world, to hand pick her blooms.

Like most women, she has a favorite flower: hydrangeas. Ms. Girard is equally drawn, however, to unusual elements with an emphasis in texture. For instance, she is always looking for a way to incorporate artichokes and succulents into her designs.

She particularly enjoys the holidays, when she has a chance to dress up her shop and events with the rustic beauty of gleaming birch branches, snowy cotton pods and burlap with lots of pops of red.

“I find inspiration wherever I go, I buy anywhere and everywhere,” she said. “I just really love what I do.”

For more information, call 482-0727 or visit www.elementhomeandgarden.com.

—Sarah Torribio

storribio@claremont-courier.com

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