Sound Garden: Vespertine

This week, Sound Garden finds us immersed in the odd, magical world of Björk, as we pay homage to her mind-blowing 2001 album, Vespertine. Perhaps you are an alternative music buff and know Björk well, or maybe you aren’t that familiar with her sound but have heard that she is from Iceland. I can absolutely guarantee that whatever your level of interest in Björk, you can recall the fuss ignited when she wore the swan dress pictured on the above cover to the Academy Awards in 2001. Björk’s swan dress moment threatened to overshadow the genius of her music on Vespertine, but I assure you, it is worth exploring. Like Beck and some other artists yet to be featured here, Björk commonly employs sampling and layering in her music, establishing a full-bodied sonic experience. On Vespertine, there are samples of crunching snow and cracking ice, which you will see reflected in this week’s wintry arrangement.

For today’s design, I focus on structure and texture to create a very literal interpretation of the cover art for Vespertine. The arrangement is highly architectural because I want to demonstrate how to use florals and organic elements almost like sculpture.

Yes, that is a bud of actual cotton (nestled in a bed of silver spray-painted asparagus fern!). Cotton is a highlight in today’s arrangement. Although the weather is turning bone chilly here on the East Coast, we are still importing cotton branches from the balmier southern states. Cotton during this time of year always reminds me of the “snow” glued to cardboard shoeboxes for the winterscape dioramas that we created as children in school.

Follow along after the jump for the completed arrangement and some tips about designing with intricate structure and texture. — Sarah

Downy majolica spray roses suggest the swan’s coat and the powdery snow. Selecting flowers based on texture as well as palette is a more sophisticated way to design, and I know you are ready.

A cotton bud and a ligustrum berry set the black and white palette for our Vespertine arrangement. TIP: As always, if you don’t have access to some of the more unusual florals featured here, simply use the palette as inspiration and remember to hone in on texture. You could just as easily create an all bright-white arrangement or an all winter-white design (using tulips, roses and hydrangea, if they are more readily available to you) and play up their different forms. Mix “face” flowers and “tubular” blooms, cluster soft petals and intersperse with rough shapes. These techniques yield a more interesting result than simply buying a bunch of tulips and sticking them in a jar.

Stems of cotton are a great option for a sculptural arrangement, as they possess soft, round “blooms” as well as long, tubular stalks. The tough, spiky branches allow the cotton to pop from the stems.

The unusual flowers in this arrangement include the aforementioned spray roses, cotton and painted asparagus fern along with dark black ligustrum berry, gray summer cypress, leucadendron (like little acorns), “carrot flower”/black version of Queen Anne’s Lace and curly-q fiddlehead fern. When I chose the flowers, I was imagining the cotton as snow, the roses as swan feathers and the ligustrum berry as Björk’s hair.

I filled a galvanized French tin with floral foam and selected blooms reminiscent of Björk’s flowing movement on the cover. My concept was to use the flowers to create representations of both the swan and Björk. I imagined the majolica spray roses as the swan and even shaped them to suggest the body and head. The cluster of carrot flowers is Björk’s face, framed by her black “hair.”

The “swan’s” dark ligustrum berry eye is inspired by coal for a snowman.

The icy silver spray-painted asparagus fern is evocative of swan wings.

In this full view, you can identify the stones on the wall in the background (leucadendron pods), the swan, Björk, snow, feathers, swirls and the silvery swan wings bursting forth in the lower right corner.

This arrangement is elaborate and just weird enough for Björk’s artistic free spirit. It is a really interesting challenge to use florals in this way. Even with simple, inexpensive blooms, you can select a variety of textures and perhaps use some design element at home (a painting, for example) to inspire an arrangement. You could even display your arrangement in front of its inspiration for a conversation starter at a holiday gathering.

Never shy away from doing something unusual with blooms. There are no rules!

Meet me back here in two weeks as we delve into another musical and floral adventure.

bebe pies

Gorgeous! I really like the use of the stems of cotton. Love that album. The sound is so intricately layered.


This is quickly becoming my all-time very favorite design sponge column. Always so creative and original-just lovely!!! Thanks so much.


Thanks, all! I really love doing the column because it has me experimenting right along with the readers! If I can encourage people to get their hands on flowers, I have done my job :)


Such talent. I am in awe of your creativity. Keep the posts coming, I could look at (and read) them everyday! A great reminder of the beauty in simple things.

Kristin B

Wow. This is pretty darn amazing! Not only is this a beautiful arrangement, I love how conceptual and interpretive you got with it – thanks in part to a fantastic inspiration point. ;)