Table display I had to capture, during my not-so-recent trip to Paris

I am obsessed with floral design. For me, putting attention on flowers goes back to that saying, “Beauty is the closest we can get to God.” In my work, flower arrangements are the essential finishing touch to any “install” — a.k.a. the “After” or “Reveal,” when the client sees their newly designed space for the first time. In my life, I bring fresh flowers into my home on a regular basis. And they are certainly a must-have for any social occasion. I associate flowers with bringing people together in a very thoughtful and beauty-inspired way.

In the Bay Area, we are lucky to have a plethora of amazing floral designers. Each one brings their own flavor, their own aesthetic stamp. For today’s column, I spoke with two whom I work with often, for my projects and my personal life, Freya Prowe of Brother and Sisters Flowers, and Natalie Bowen Brookshire of Natalie Bowen Designs.

I am delighted to share more about these two amazing women through these brief interviews, below. Please offer yourself the pleasure of following them on Insta for more about the wonderful worlds they create and inhabit: &


Freya Prowe

I met the whimsical Freya Prowe of Brother and Sisters Flowers (on Grand Avenue in Oakland) many years ago, through her husband, Doug Washington, who was my boss when I worked at Vertigo in San Francisco, in my previous career-life as a restaurant manager.

In recent years, I watched admiringly as she and her husband, restaurateur Doug Washington, transformed that 3-Day-Blinds parking lot into a magical garden; so tranquil, with beauty moments punctuating everywhere. These days, in addition to being a provender and arranger of flowers and plants, she’s hosting events in her outdoor space, weddings and community gatherings.

How did you become a floral designer?
I was trained as a fine artist, but had always worked with flowers. When I was very young (starting at 10-years-old) I grew flowers and sold them at the farmers market. I then moved on to work in flower shops consistently over the years. Gradually my day job became something I fell in love with and I was lucky to learn from some very talented floral designers along the way.

When my oldest daughter was born in 2000, I started my own floral design business specializing in events, because I needed the flexibility in order to raise my young daughter. At the time I never thought I would open a brick-and-mortar shop, because I loved the flexibility that event work offered.

Starting in 2014, I had the opportunity to gradually test the waters of having a shop with a series of regular pop-ups. Within a year, this became having a shop that is open six-days-a-week.

Over the past few years, I am happy to say that with the help of an amazing team and a supportive family, I have fully moved into my own location: a brick-and-mortar (actually more of a glass-and-redwood) home on Grand Avenue, complete with an expansive garden area! I feel really lucky that I have come full circle in that now we are starting to grow some of the flowers we use on site!

What do you love about your work with flowers?
I love the seasonality, the impermanence, the richness and array of colors and textures…. As a medium, flowers are assertive in their specific attributes. I love that with flowers you really have to listen to and respect the nature of each particular type and season.

How would you describe your floral design style?
My style is first and foremost driven by the materials I’m working with. If I am given a very special handmade vessel by a client, I listen carefully to the client’s vision, but also attend to the feel and look of the vessel. It is important to me as a designer to create arrangements that are harmonious, yet also a little surprising.

Architectural bouquet featuring Scabirosa (center) and Artichoke (rear) created by Brother and Sisters Flowers. Photo credit: Mieke Strand of Mad and Moonly Photography

What is your mantra or motto?
Listen to the flowers.

Do you have a favorite flower?
Every season brings new favorites for me, for example, as we head into fall, I’m loving the pods, the grasses, and all the amazing strong textures of the season. Of course, the vibrant Dahlia is gorgeous now as well! I’m also loving the fall Hydrangeas, the Yarrows, Strawflowers, Pampas Grass…. I would say that I tend to gravitate toward flowers with a strong sense of form.

A warm afternoon in the garden at Brother and Sisters Flowers. Photo credit: Freya Prowe via Instagram

What is something you would like my readers to know about floral design?
When creating floral arrangements, the most important thing is to respect and consider the materials as well as the space in which they will be used. An incredible vintage vase with a detailed and highly stylized floral arrangement can be too much in an already-busy room. On the other hand a very simple, monochrome arrangement (or all one flower type) in a modernist room in a modern vessel can be a little boring. I think responding to the environment and incorporating something surprising into a floral arrangement keeps things really fresh!


“Lost in Lemon Verbena.” Photo courtesy of Natalie Bowen Brookshire via Instagram

Natalie Bowen

My first encounter with Natalie Bowen was at a Mother magazine luncheon, hosted by Sherri McMullen at her eponymous shop ( Natalie’s earthy yet ethereal elegance and our shared love for “woo” brought us together as kindred, immediately.

How did you become a floral designer?
I represent the third generation in my family to have a career in flowers! My mother was a garden designer. My grandmother ran the flower shop at the Fairmont Hotel, the Mark Hopkins Hotel and one in West Portal in the 1940’s! And, I hosted my first flower arranging party (with my mother’s help) when I was in the first grade. In college, I studied Industrial Design, which applies in sometimes surprising ways to floral design.

What do you love about your work with flowers?
I love flowers! It’s in my blood and I NEED them to be around me at all times.

How would you describe your floral design style?
Intentional, natural, effortless, thoughtful, and situational.

Kitchen view; “Sometimes all you need is a few stems.” Design by Natalie B Designs, photo credit: Natalie Bowen Brookshire via Instagram

What is your mantra or motto?
“Do good work and put it out there.” As a business owner, I like to encourage others in what they do best and help elevate those around me.

Do you have a favorite flower?
My favorite flowers often change with the season. I am led by what feels “new” or fresh or is in a color I am currently obsessed with. My all-time favorites are white Japanese Anemones for their elegant yet simple shapes, Daphne (we almost named my daughter Daphne!) for their uniquely intoxicating scent and Tuberose/Gardenias for the same reason. My current obsessions is a cherry caramel Phlox from a local grower named Bluma, and the local Tuberose from Front Porch Farms. My signature flower among my friends is probably the Gardenia. When I entertain I love to buy a big box and put them all over my house. It’s a very easy way to bring a big impact to your home.

“Flowers for Future Well Summit which focused on regenerative farming and the merging of sustainability, science and the importance of why we MUST make changes for the future of our planet.” Floral design and image credit: Natalie Bowen Brookshire; via Instagram

What is something you would like my readers to know about floral design?
1. It does not take much to create impact. I always encourage people to play around! Even a couple of stems will do.
2. Think about color. Bring in a flower that compliments or contrasts with a color in the interior design. That makes the room look cohesive.
3. Invest in beautiful vases that can stand alone — when you don’t have flowers in them. That way, they will be a beautiful part of your environment all the time.

In my upcoming video how-to series, I will be sharing full-length instructional videos and quick tips, along with more insider info on how to bring flowers into your life in an effortless way. For more information on the launch, sign up for my mailing list:


All celebrations in life, births, weddings, graduations, dinner parties, even the celebration of death (in the way that we celebrate a life as part of grieving death)… we see flowers at these intersections, moments, of human life.

There is something about bringing in flowers that is in the spirit of just doing something for the sheer pleasure of it. And how often do we allow ourselves pleasure on that level? We can buy ourselves a breathtaking bouquet, and yes, it will be dead in a week, but we don’t care, because we receive so much pleasure out of it.

Floral design is also about thoughtfulness towards others. That bouquet or arrangement will light up everyone who experiences it, the sight, smell, touch. So sensuous, feminine.

What gift will you give to yourself and your community, through this collaboration with nature?

A version of this article originally appeared in the Piedmont Post