Florist Sarah Ryhanen
Photography by Heather Waraksa | Words Chandara K. Phanachone
Sarah Ryhanen’s f loral artistry is evocative. Her f loral arrangements include kinetic, raw bouquets and spectacular centerpieces—very modern, yet with a wildness to the structure, and a timelessness to the design. Instead of domed, tightly bunched bridal bouquets, Ryhanen’s work captivates brides and guests alike with rare blooms and striking, muted colors, positioned with ample height and an open architecture.
Ryhanen’s design aesthetic that integrates surprisingly uncommon elements—from pea pods to unripe strawberries—is partially what has helped her Brooklyn-based f loral design studio, Saipua, become something of a phenomenon in the bridal f loral scene, and beyond. As the story goes, during the recession of 2008, Saipua was just two years old and struggling to find its own niche in the f loral industry. Due to a strained economy, many of the local distributors had shifted to sourcing mainly hearty and safe blooms they knew would sell rather than the unique, interesting f lowers that piqued Ryhanen’s interests. Frustrated, she and her business partner, Eric Famisan, decided that the only way they would get the rare and unusual blooms they wanted for Saipua’s designs would be to grow the f lowers themselves. By 2011, they purchased an old farmhouse on 107 acres of land just west of Albany in upstate New York. They called it The Farm at World’s End and excitedly wanted to start growing f lowers. Unfortunately, as Ryhanen and Famisan had no prior experience as farmers, they failed to look at the makeup of the soil before they signed on the dotted lines. While the land—rocky, packed clay —was perfect for raising dairy cows, it was not ideal for producing the demanding varieties of f lowers they had dreamed of growing. After years of improving the soil, which included the hard work of manually removing rocks for which they hosted more than a few “rock picking parties”— the farm today produces a treasure trove of unique f lowers that are used both in Saipua’s designs and in other f loral businesses owned by their friends. In addition to growing f lowers, the farm runs primarily on solar power. As of 2015, Saipua hauls all of their leftover f lowers—both from events and their design studio—back to the farm to be composted. Waste which would otherwise end up in a landfill now gets naturally broken down into a nutrient-dense amendment that creates rich soil in which new f lowers bloom. Aside from f lowers, the farm is home to a variety of fruits and vegetables—baby eggplants, pink currants, and lettuce—all of which have found their way into Ryhanen’s mesmerizing bouquets. One arrangement may include crabapple to columbine foliage and heirloom roses, while another includes allium (from the garlic and onion family) alongside hellebores, ranunculus, and geraniums. Judging from the pure radiance of her f loral designs and her effortless integration of natural elements, one would think Ryhanen was a formally trained horticulturist. In fact, while her background is in contemporary art, when it comes to f loral design, she is completely self-taught. Her innate command of the f loral language has elevated her status to one of the most sought after f loral designers in Brooklyn, with her work appearing in The New York Times, Vogue and Martha Stewart. She also regularly teaches other aspiring f loral designers the secrets of her style through classes on her farm and in the studio, as well as through workshops held in enchanting locations across the globe. What really interests us in her work, however, is the breathtaking f loral art her studio creates for weddings, both in New York and around the world. Most recently, Saipua created a spiraling, monolithic display in baby’s breath, winding up a white column for a friend’s wedding. To stand before it was to stand in awe of it. While some f loral designers keep things understated, Saipua’s designs can make a grand statement without being overtly opulent. In the most romantic, poignant way possible, Ryhanen believes that f lowers remind us of the f leeting nature of life. The fact that f lowers won’t last forever make them that much more beautiful and integral to our appreciation of love, life, and the natural world around us. This is the sort of romantic, emotional mindset that leads Ryhanen and her team at Saipua to create such breathtaking f loral artistry, each one bringing a unique interpretation of love to any wedding.
“Aside from f lowers, the farm is home to a variety of fruits and vegetables—baby eggplants, pink currants, and lettuce—all of which have found their way into Ryhanen’s mesmerizing bouquets.” says Sarah.
Read more in Issue 05