Friendly Flower Fight

Netflix host and fab floral designer Kristen Griffith-VanderYacht connects with flower fans around the globe

By Debra Prinzing, PFCI

Note: My Q&A with Kristen Griffith-VanderYacht appears in the August 2020 issue of Florists’ Review

Just in time for escapist binge-watching during the COVID-19 pandemic, Netflix’s The Big Flower Fight debuted in late May, instantly capturing the hearts of a nature-starved audience — flower people, gardening types, and families of all ages.

In the style of The Great British Bake Off, the eight-episode reality series invites ten pairs of florists, sculptors and garden designers from around the world to a friendly competition for the title: “Best in Bloom.”

Each episode challenges contestants to turn outrageous horticultural assignments into larger-than-life topiaries festooned with flowers and plants.

At the show’s heart is head judge Kristin Griffith-VanderYacht (second from left in above Netflix promo photograph), a Seattle-based florist and founder of Wild Bloom, a wedding and event studio. The past 12 months have been a whirlwind for Griffith-VanderYacht, who says he was discovered and cast as The Big Flower Fight’s head judge after the show producers discovered his Instagram account. As judge and mentor, Griffith-VanderYacht’s charm, energy and polychromatic wardrobe keeps everything fun on The Big Flower Fight.
I recently met up with Griffith-VanderYacht for an interview, via Zoom, to hear all about his experience, his fascinating path to a flower-filled life, and his dreams for the future.

FR: You’ve had careers in theatre, floral design and now, as a television personality. What were you influences?
KGV: I grew up in Detroit in an incredibly religious home where I felt an outcast in many ways. I felt that I was a disappointment — being gay and being so flamboyant; being ostentatious and loving sparkly things. At the time, I knew I had to get out and find other people like me. For me, joining theatre was important. I learned that, “Oh my God, everyone’s like me. I’m not even the weirdest person here. I’m actually pretty basic compared to all these other big personalities.” So my influences from an early start were artists.

FR: Tell us about your musical theatre career!
KGV: I attended Boston Conservatory, a performing arts college in Boston. When I was 20, I was cast in the national tour of ‘Rent,’ and then I moved to New York. When Rent came along, in many ways, I felt complete. That hole in my heart that needed to be filled was overflowing with love and acceptance. Rent was my dream show and I got to play my dream role, which was Angel. Theatre, for me, was always about connecting with people and making a difference in someone’s life through a performance. It’s the same thing with psychology. It’s the same thing with flowers. It’s always about trying to give people the inspiration that they need to feel they can conquer whatever issues they’re experiencing.

FR: How did you start your floral career?
KGV: I was in graduate school at Columbia University, studying psychology to be a school counselor. In my fieldwork, I was working with middle school age children, yet I was thinking about flowers. I realized it wasn’t fair to them or me. I interned at this incredible studio called Sprout Home in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and learned so much from the head designer, Doan Ly. She has a bajillion followers on Instagram because her work is stunning. I couldn’t follow her process or what she was doing to make bouquets and centerpieces . . . but by the end, it was this masterpiece of a design. That’s when I realized that it’s not about me being able to follow someone else. It’s about listening to my own voice – because that’s what Doan was doing. She was listening to her own voice and adhering to her own taste level, developed over years of experience. Observing her work flow was a turning point for me.

Click below to read the full article:

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Debra Prinzing

Debra Prinzing is a Seattle-based writer, speaker and leading advocate for American-grown flowers. Through her many Slow Flowers-branded projects, she has convened a national conversation that encourages consumers and professionals alike to make conscious choices about their floral purchases. Debra is the producer of SlowFlowers.com, the weekly "Slow Flowers Podcast" and the American Flowers Week (June 28-July 4) campaign. Debra is a Florists' Review Contributing Editor for which she produces the "Slow Flowers Journal" section. She is author of 10 books, including Slow Flowers and The 50 Mile Bouquet.

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Slow Flowers Journal is brought to you by SlowFlowers.com. Slow Flowers is an award-winning online directory created to help consumers find florists, studio designers, wedding and event planners, supermarket flower departments and flower farmers that supply American grown flowers. Founded in 2014, the site has grown to 700 members across the U.S.

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For more information, please contact Debra Prinzing
at 206-769-8211 or 844-SLOWFLO (844-756-9356); debra(at)slowflowers.com.