How food inspires Dani Chou’s floral designs

‘I grew up surrounded by flowers.’ Photo by Geno Chou

‘I grew up surrounded by flowers.’ Photo by Geno Chou

By Cristina DC Pastor

Beauty is in the eye of the…floral designer?

Dani Chou, who owns the floral design studio Petals by Dani, knows a thing or two about beauty and style, surrounded throughout her life by the essence of what is pleasing to the eyes.

She grew up in central Taiwan, in a country house with a paved courtyard and where gardenia shrubs and jasmine vines grew bountiful by the roadside. She remembered how, as a little girl, she would ride a bike with her grandfather with tiny flowers adorning her hair.

“I grew up in a traditional home in Taiwan. We always had flowers growing either in the garden or on trees,” said Dani.

Her mother owned a beauty salon where she did bridal hair and makeup. From watching her at work, Dani acquired and developed her own sense of style. This would sharpen further when she worked for more than a decade as an international sales executive for top cosmetics companies in New York.

“I think I was born into this industry of beauty,” she explained how her life seems to gravitate around the notion of being able to discern what is truly beautiful.

She came into the flower business by accident. She was helping her brother put together the marketing plan for his skateboard business when it dawned on her that she wanted to do the same thing: “I wanted to do something that I love.”

This arrangement uses broccoli rabe flowers, chives, mint, chilis, and cabbage.

This arrangement uses broccoli rabe flowers, chives, mint, chilis, and cabbage.

She adores flowers, and so took classes at the New York Botanical Garden to learn about floral design. By January this year, the website Petals by Dani went live. Her first few businesses came from friends. Her first big event was the wedding of her Filipina friend.

“One of the biggest satisfactions about working in this industry is not only am I working with the gifts from Nature but that I am giving these wonderful gifts to someone to be happy and to admire them. I cannot take the full credit for flowers because they were created by Mother Nature. It’s not mine, but we (myself and my clients) have the privilege to enjoy it,” she said.

Dani speaks with a lot of thought, as if reflecting the care she lavishes on her designs. She explained her process – from prepping the flowers days ahead to carefully stowing them so the vases do not break. Larger, life-size arrangements are usually done on location.

“I like to visualize the space and carefully plan things out,” she said.

If the party theme calls for food, she uses vegetables and fruits. Using food as part of design can be creative since they provide unique textures and a variety of colors. It can also be a challenge because they wilt under extreme temperature. If the event is for a few hours, she uses a lot of leafy vegetables, such as kale, which is multifaceted for its different shades of green – from dark and deep to yellowish. “Kale has great color and texture,” she said.

She uses radishes if she’s looking for fresh shapes and bright color. Figs, a type of citrus called kumquat, Mandarin apples, and grapes also provide certain colors and textures she needs for aesthetics.

In extreme temperature, she avoids leafy vegetables that tend to wilt. “I have to use something substantial, like artichoke which is sturdy and comes in different shapes.” Zucchini, carrots, lemon slices, and jalapeno, when combined with flowers, provide “great presence and are visually very appealing.”

Dani said she aspires to create designs that are elegant and timeless. “Nothing complicated but classy.”

Petals by Dani can be reached by email:

© The FilAm 2018

Working with gifts from nature

Working with gifts from nature

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