Painting with Petals: The Creative Process of Little Gay Garden
June Hyatte, the floral designer and gardener behind Little Gay Garden, begins her work long before a single seed begins to germinate. We discussed her design process in the flower paradise that acts as her studio and front lawn. The space is bursting with colors—pinks, purples and greens—as well as the smell of rich soil and the grassy, sweet scent of tomato stalks.
To my surprise and delight, Hyatte welcomed me with a bouquet of flowers that smelled as luscious as it looked. As the flowers smiled up at us, Hyatte explained the steps to designing her bouquets, a creative form that combines texture, color and even science to produce such beauty.
The abundance of flowers around us, Hyatte explains, is only a fraction of her practice and a product of a much deeper process. “The artistry is in the soil,” Hyatte says, “which is what consistently drives me back to gardening.” To prepare the soil in her garden for a summer season, she begins during the preceding fall, balancing the tenuous formula of fungi, microbes, bacteria and insects. The soil sketches out the potential of Hyatte’s bouquets—it is the foundation of each piece.
“[I walk] through the garden, seeing what’s in bloom, seeing what looks really happy and vibrant, and then, like most artists, I’ve got my colors in front of me.”
Once the soil beds are prepped and the seeds are planted, Hyatte turns her attention from the ground to the sky. She says, “I think the beauty of being a gardener is it requires paying attention to what’s happening.” Hyatte considers rain, temperature fluctuations, light changes and air flow. Her job is to adjust daily to our increasingly more erratic local climate.
Each bouquet is made the morning of its distribution, ensuring its uniqueness. Hyatte says, “[I walk] through the garden, seeing what’s in bloom, seeing what looks really happy and vibrant, and then, like most artists, I’ve got my colors in front of me.” As inspiration blooms, Hyatte selects flowers for their color, size, shape and texture.
“Focal flowers” act as the centerpieces of her bouquets. They are the attention-grabbing beauties such as tulips, zinnias or dahlias. Their supporting cast are the filler flowers and plants that give the bouquet a more defined shape. These are often green basils and grasses to bring life to the interior of the bundle. Hyatte then selects “spikes” to bring dimension to a floral design. Spikes of celosia snapdragons or delicate pennycress flowers soar above the focal and filler flowers to add height and create a more interesting shape. Their inclusion ensures that each bouquet expresses itself across multiple planes.
Hyatte points to the small tufts of a flower speckled around the bouquet she gave me. Identifying them as gomphrena flowers, she ascribed to them the task of introducing textual variation as well as smaller pops of color. Her design work toes the line of symmetry and asymmetry, of intentionality and lovely randomness to create a sense of beauty that appears effortless.
“I think the beauty of being a gardener is it requires paying attention to what’s happening.”
Each bouquet is a “personal experience” of thoughtful creativity. They last for up to two weeks, saved from the damaging harvesting and transportation processes that store-bought flowers undergo. Hyatte’s flowers live a life filled with gentle care and respect; she says flowers are “a living product, and so you have [to] treat them in that way.”
Little Gay Garden has a big future. Hyatte plans to expand her growing space and sell food-based arrangements. Coming soon are fall bouquets of cedar greens, heavier textures and dried flowers.
Hyatte’s job as a floral designer and gardening scientist allows for an important exchange of emotions and care within our community. Her use of color, texture and space allows her flowers to transport otherwise hard-to-express feelings from the soil in her garden to our homes. The bouquet Hyatte gave me now sits happily on my kitchen table, offering a burst of color, joy, artful design and blooming friendship.
Read more stories on locals using flowers and plants:
Selective Nature: Nancy Rivera
Paradise Palm: 45 Years of Interior Plant Care & Sale