by Nat Frothingham
As a spontaneous gift, or for Valentine’s Day, or to remember a special moment or a special friend — or to mark a birthday, an anniversary, to express sympathy or regret, even to make amends — why not flowers?
On a recent afternoon, I started in downtown Montpelier and drove for 10 minutes out Route 2 to MiddleGround in Middlesex, the home of the Red Hen Bakery and a growing community of artist studios and shops. It was there at MiddleGround that I talked with floral designer Yana Poulson at Regal Floral Design.
Regal Floral Design is a small welcoming space that is at once both a studio and a shop — the place where Yana creates her hand-tied, natural bouquets and striking floral arrangements.
On display are a variety of fresh flowers and the natural materials Yana uses — raffia ribbon, non-woven textiles, willow tree branches to create bouquets and arrangements that are at once both natural and personal.
As we started talking, Yana asked me, almost shyly, “Is it interesting that I’m from Russia?”
After a pause, she continued, “I grew up in St. Petersburg. We lived in the middle of the city. I was from an upper class family.” Though things were extremely tough during the 1990s.
“My challenge,” said Yana, “was to find one particular thing I wanted to focus on.” As a student at Petersburg State University, she studied biology. And though biology didn’t lead her to a career, it did explain the physiology of plants and biochemistry. And it did answer these questions: “How do plants grow? How do flowers grow? How do they breathe?”
Yana left St. Petersburg when she was 27. But said, “It’s not because of something I didn’t like there.” In St. Petersburg, she had worked in pre-natal diagnostics. During her 20s, she spent a month near Bristol, England and was a student at Flower Design of Britain, a school that specializes in all aspects of flower design. Speaking about what she learned there, she said, “After one month I was able to do anything: wedding bouquets and all forms of contemporary flower design that included working with a range of different materials such as wood, wire and fabric.”
Describing the change in her life that brought her to America and Vermont, Yana said simply, “I met my husband online. He came to visit me and we soon realized that we have a lot in common. He told me that Vermont is beautiful. And it was. It spoke to my love of nature.”
After coming to Vermont, some of her friends said to her, “Yana, you should start your own flower business.” And Regal Floral Design was the result.
The word “Regal” in Regal Floral Design was inspired by 17th century baroque art, architecture and music, written to please kings, queens, princes and patrons of high art. Said Poulson, “The whole idea is something special. People come here. They tell me stories. It could be a friend who is ill. It could be about a moment of trust. Or sincere feelings of apology or regret. The flowers could be for a wife, a mother, for someone you work with. For someone who has done so much for you.”
Yana likes the word “wholehearted.” She sees flowers as special. “This is not a bunch of flowers wrapped up in plastic at the supermarket. This was made for a particular person.”
When a customer comes into her shop, Yana says, “Show me the flowers that you like. Or the flowers that she likes” — the flowers that will please the person to whom the flowers will be given. “It’s hand-tied,” she says of her bouquets. “You don’t have to carry water. You can recycle the wrapping.”
Then Yana — who is also a massage therapist — talked about the healing power of flowers. A gift of flowers can convey “delight, joy, pleasure.” You accept the gift. It makes you feel better. You feel okay. Everything is going to be okay. “I believe that healing can happen in a moment,” Yana said. “A thoughtful gift can start a cascade of positive emotions.”
When we bring flowers to a friend, we may knock on a door or ring a bell. The person who is to receive the flowers may be thinking, “Who’s knocking on the door now? Somebody wants something.” Then she opens the door. “Oh, what is this? Oh, it’s flowers,” she exclaims. “Sometimes flowers bring back a memory of a special day. It could be 20 years ago. It’s about giving and receiving,” Yana said.
As our interview ended, Yana talked about the similarities between giving flowers and her work as a massage therapist.
“I want to do both. I like doing both. It’s very similar: healing arts and flower art. It’s about understanding yourself. What is your true desire? It’s also about flow. You have to accept the flow of energy. Accept what’s coming. Wellness is about accepting new changes and letting go of the past.”
Then Yana applied that line of thought to business. “You have to let go of what you might be holding onto and be open to whatever comes to you,” she said.