The de Young blooms with bouquets for Balenciaga 

This week, the de Young Museum offers a hotbed of flowers, afternoon teas, perfumed elegance and lectures by noted floral designers in a unique intersection of physical and living art.

This year’s Bouquets to Art — the museum’s 27th extravaganza in which more than 100 florists and gardeners create designs to complement works of art — has a Spanish theme keyed to the upcoming “Balenciaga and Spain” exhibition at the de Young. Opening March 26, “Balenciaga” features work by couturier Cristóbal Balenciaga and examines how the designer’s fashions connect to Spain’s culture, history and art.

At Bouquets to Art, which runs through Saturday, the lineup includes expert speakers such as Kate Berry, style director of Martha Stewart Weddings, and London floral designer Shane Connolly, who has worked with the royal

As in past years, a large-scale floral creation, the main display in Wilsey Court, is by Natasha Lisitsa of Waterlily Pond Floral Design. Her plan: “Something over the top.”

The piece, “Fantastical,” comprises 2,500 feet of colored bamboo fashioned into interlocked, 3-D pyramids and embellished with giant, 5-foot “flowers” built from fan palm tree leaf boots.

Influenced by her study of Japanese ikebana floral design, Lisitsa’s work has been called free-spirited, exotic and adventurous. The name of Waterlily Pond comes from “lazy summer days on the Dnieper River in Ukraine when I was little,” she says.

Poetry flows freely from floral artists. For example, Yukiko Neibert of Yukiko’s Floral Design Studio in Marin describes her creation inspired by Willard Metcalf’s “Winter Festival” as “the budding pussy willows emulating the blowing snow above the white blanket of lilies; the russets of cymbidium sprigs and the pussy willow branches harmonize with the greens of calla lilies, kale and leaves.”

When Bouquets to Art is over, the flowers are given away or thrown away. Visitors in the market for beautiful but somewhat tired flowers might be able to obtain some Saturday afternoon.

Through the years, Bouquets to Art has attracted more than a half-million visitors to its four-day shows, enabling the sponsoring San Francisco Auxiliary to raise $4.74 million to fund special exhibitions, art acquisitions and educational programs.

A word of caution: Anything as wildly popular as Bouquets to Art also means big crowds in limited spaces. To avoid the crush, go as early in the day as possible.


Bouquets to Art

Where: de Young Museum, 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco
When: 9:30 a.m. to 5:15 p.m. today, Thursday and Saturday; 9:30 a.m. to 8:45 p.m. Friday
Tickets: $20-$25 general, $17 seniors, $16 youths, free for children under 13
Contact: (415) 750-3600,


Lecture, event schedule


  • 10 a.m.: Shane Connolly, London-based floral designer
  • 1:30 p.m.: Flora Grubb and Susie Nadler, San Francisco floral designers


  • 10 a.m.: Soho Sakai, East Bay floral designer
  • 1:30 p.m.: Kate Berry, New York City-based floral designer


  • Benefit drawing

About The Author

Janos Gereben

Janos Gereben

Janos Gereben is a writer and columnist for SF Classical Voice; he has worked as writer and editor with the NY Herald-Tribune, TIME Inc., UPI, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, San Jose Mercury News, Post Newspaper Group, and wrote documentation for various technology companies.
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