Floriography aka the language of flowers is a means of cryptological communication through the use or arrangement of flowers. Its popularity soared in Victorian England and in the United States during the 19th century. Gifts of blooms, plants, and specific floral arrangements were used to send a coded message to the recipient, allowing the sender to express feelings which could not be spoken aloud in Victorian society – call it the Victorian version of emojis. 
(image via Feri Tradition)

Dictionaries and books on the subject became widespread and everyone was searching for the perfect flower to present in a situation according to its given meaning. Some definitions had mythological roots, others were derived from hedge witch traditions, and a few seemed completely random – and sometimes contradictory, this was certainly not an exact science...
(image via Planterra Conservatory)

In its heyday, this flower language was easily expressed with nosegays (also called tussie mussies), bouquets of flowers and herbs carried by proper women to alleviate the effects of lowly odors - as regular bathing was not yet a common practice. Depending on the flowers included in the bouquet, these could convey a myriad of concepts and desires. Not only did the individual flowers hold meaning, but the way they were arranged together could also tell a story or communicate a deeper meaning: from love, admiration and sympathy to jealousy, disgust and denial – it could all be expressed through flowers. This floral language eventually pervaded every aspect of  Victorian life, as flowers were depicted on fabric, china, stationary, jewelry, and even in the naming of daughters for whom certain expectations and characteristics were sought. Think about that next time you meet a Violet, Lily or Iris.
(image via Amino Apps)

Andrew Gn


The San Francisco Fall Art & Antiques Show is thrilled and proud to have renowned fashion designer Andrew Gn as its honorary chair. The youngest son of a close-knit, cosmopolitan family, Andrew was born in Singapore and had an enlightened education encompassing the classics of Western civilization and Asian cultures and languages. History and art were favorite subjects. Andrew was immersed in the world of antiques through his parents who were connoisseurs. Collecting antique furniture, porcelain and textiles soon became one of his serious pursuits. In his own words “World class antiques shows with top-notch dealers are like ephemeral private museums. Once sees art which might never appear again in a lifetime. I find this discovery so exciting, I can connect with dealers whom I do not know, and maybe add to my own collections?”
(Portrait by Anne Combaz, pre-fall 2017 fashion image via

Andrew opened his eponymous fashion house in Paris in 1996, after a year as first assistant to Monsieur Emanuel Ungaro. His experience at Ungaro, along with fashion design studies at London’s famous Saint Martin’s School of Art, plus a Master’s from Milan’s prestigious Domus Academy, endowed him with incomparable training, precision, technical skill and discipline. His sense of beauty, quest for perfection and optimistic determination are all Andrew’s own.
(spring 2017 ready-to-wear fashion images via

As to the San Francisco's show's Flower Power theme, Andrew said the following: “Other than art, flowers are another great passion of mine. They often serve as a source of inspiration for my work. One gets so much joy living with flowers in all forms, you can’t get tired of them.” Sure enough, like any gardener who must give his flowers a stage, the designer plants his within his beautiful fabrications: woven and embroidered in glorious colors, micro-beaded and painstakingly rendered in precise clusters of square sequins or cut from delicate swaths of chiffon and organdy. Breathtaking!
(close-up on spring 2017 accessory via Andrew Gn)

Q & A with Floral Chair, Dan Zelen

When reflecting on this year's FLOWER POWER theme, we decided to sit down for a chat with our go-to flower afficionado and Floral Chair, Dan Zelen. An interior and exterior designer with an appreciation for natural materials, subtle colors, and antique style, he creates stunning floral arrangements that take all aspects of a space and its inhabitants into consideration.

As the Show's long-time Floral Chair, Dan brings together the Bay Area's finest floral designers who generously donate their skills and beautiful fresh flowers to create arrangements that compliment the vision of our Exhibitors' booths. 

As Floral Chair, what do you love most about The San Francisco Fall Art & Antiques Show?

Connecting the many Exhibitors with the florists from the Bay Area and seeing the creativity of arrangements donated to each booth has been the most enjoyable. The combination of exquisite art and antiques with creative florals adds another dimension of interest and is another wonderful virtue for the Show and for this city to be proud of.

The 2017 Show theme is FLOWER POWER: Floral Imagery in Art, Antiques & Design. As a floral designer, what does the theme mean to you?

It recognizes that flowers have been a part of art and ornament in almost every culture throughout history.  Even in modern design and art, flowers are a timeless element.

What do the floral arrangements bring to the Show?

Many Exhibitors sell garden and floral containers, and showing them filled with an arrangement often sells the container. The addition of a floral arrangement with furniture also adds a living aspect to a booth as well as a softness that hints at how the piece might appear in a home.

What are your favorite flowers to work with in the fall?

Spider Mums are my favorite fall flower. The shape of the petals reminds me of fireworks exploding in a wide array of colors, and they have a long-lasting elegance perfect for any floral design.

What kind of things do you take into consideration when designing a bouquet for an Exhibitor’s booth?

I always create designs that accentuate an Exhibitor’s booth and their antiques. Over the years, I have had the pleasure of creating elegant arrangements for jewelry exhibitors as well as creating Ikebana inspired florals for Japanese antiques – totally different booths and looks. The challenge of creating arrangements for specific antiques is something that I really love to do.

What are key things to keep in mind when creating floral arrangements for a room?

I always ask a client what color they hate first and if they are opposed to fragrance. That always seems to get an answer. I take my cues from the style of room, the colors in a space, and often I like to add to a color that is not in the room at all, but that works so the flowers stand on their own while in total harmony with the space. I often look at my client’s attire, and I am not afraid of looking in their closet to see what color shoes or handbags are there… that’s always a clue to a person's love for color.

What’s your favorite flower?

I have two favorites. Lily of the Valley flowers are available in San Francisco for such a short amount of time that I snap them up as soon as they become available. For so much scent to come from such a tiny stemmed flower is intoxicating to me. Garden roses are my favorite flowers that are available all year in the California flower markets. They are luxurious in shape and smell, and they continue to look beautiful even as they begin to die.

How would you classify your style of floral arranging? 

I have always been intrigued by Constance Spry for her fearless combinations of foraged elements in classical designs paired with beautiful containers. I hope that I create different styles for different times, places, and moods, always adding something in my work that is not expected… an element of surprise in some way.


To view a list of the 2017 Floral Designers, please visit our Florists page here. Stay tuned for upcoming Q&A's with other prominent voices from the art, antiques, and design world leading up to the big Show!


Flora and Botanica


A flower's appeal is in its contradictions — 
so delicate in form yet strong in fragrance, 
so small in size yet big in beauty, 
so short in life yet long on effect. 

Mankind has forever been fascinated with the fleeting nature of flowers and blooms; their temporary beauty makes them all the more desirable and thus a favorite subject to immortalize in art and decorative objects. What better material to choose for such a noble endeavor than a relative from the natural world? Wood floral carvings, marquetry and inlay from different time periods can found throughout history and throughout the world, each unique yet all sharing the common goal of memorializing nature's loveliest gift.

From Carlton Hobbs:
A very rare painted and gilded tree pedestal in the manner of Gian Lorenzo Bernini, probably Rome, 17th century.

From Butchoff Antiques:
A very fine enclosed cabinet of the Aesthetic Period, firmly attributed to Jackson & Graham of London, and constructed using the very finest and rarest woods, including a beautifully grained coromandel as the ground wood, with ebony, palm wood, thuya, zebra, and several specimen woods.

From epoca:
A finely inlaid anglo-indian octagonal traveling table, circa 1880, with octagonal top centering an inlaid stylized floral medallion within a foliate band.

From Jayne Thompson Antiques:
A long oak coffer of paneled construction. Each of the four panels across the front are deeply carved with a floral motif. English, 17th Century.

From The Zentner Collection:
An exceedingly rare and elegant rootwood study of a blossoming peony branch, from a private Japanese collection. Circa 19th century.

No shrinking violet


A charming yet diminutive flower, the violet has stood for a whole array of meanings, many to do with color, many to do with its gentle size and appearance. Beginning with Christianity, the title Viola Odorata means Our Lady of Modesty, and so this flower is often associated with Mary's humble nature and devotion. 
Below: from Patrick and Ondine Mestdagh, from a rare and interesting group of 50 watercolors of plants and herbs, French or Belgian, circa 1900

In ancient Rome, violets were common funeral flowers that represent remembrance. To this day, violets and purples are considered colors of mourning in many cultures. During the middle ages, monks called violets an Herb of the Trinity because they have three primary colors. They also named the flower heart's ease as it was used to treat heart disorders.
Below: from Lang Antique and Estate Jewelry, an enchanting array of iridescent pink, lavender and green shimmers from the five petals of this exceptionally lovely pansy flower, centered with a sparkling European-cut diamond. Masterfully crafted, circa 1900-1915 by Crane and Theurer of Newark, NJ.

Violets were incredibly popular in Victorian times. They were eaten, candied, in cakes and pastries, and they were at the heart of the cut flower boom: violet-sellers would stand on street corners, selling nosegays and bunches which women pinned to their dresses and men tucked in their hat brims or wore on their lapels. And Victorian women – who were big on that so-feminine hobby of flower-pressing – pressed violets into scrapbooks, picked on leisurely country walks through woods where violets 
Below, from Lang Antique and Estate Jewelry
Left - An early Victorian memorial pin, an extraordinary keepsake from the sentimental 19th century. Preserved under glass is a lovely flower in full blossom, lovingly crafted from human hair and painted over shimmering mother of pearl. 
Right - An enchanting Art Nouveau pansy pin featuring shimmering Plique-a-Jour (translucent) enamel petals which effectively emulates the look of frosted crystal. Emeralds and a .55 carat European-cut diamond beams from the center of the this fabulous bejeweled flower, finely crafted in platinum over gold, circa 1900.

Today's renewed interest in organic farm-to-table resources and foraging has put wild violets in the spotlight again: they are rich in vitamins A and C and can be added to salads to add color and an unexpected sweet flavor. Bon appétit!
Below: Image via Girl in an Apron



One of the most poetic and powerful expressions of Flower Power can be found in Ikebana, the Japanese art of flower arrangement. Much more than a stylish undertaking, Ikebana is really a philosophy/art hybrid: the discipline of arranging cut flowers, branches, leaves and grass to form a three-dimensional work of art that reflects the arranger’s spiritual understanding of the world. There is most definitely a meditative quality to this art form. Seasoned designers realize not only the importance of silence, but also the importance of space, which is not meant to be filled, but created and preserved through the arrangements. This ties into other principles of Ikebana including minimalism, shape and line, form, humanity, aesthetics, and balance.
Below: image via Contacto Japon

In Japan, flower arrangements are used as decorations on a level with paintings and other art objects. This remarkably high development of floral art in Japan can be attributed to the Japanese love of nature. In principle, ikebana aims not at bringing a finite piece of nature into the house, but rather at suggesting the whole of nature, by creating a link between the indoors and the outdoors.
Below: images via Stichting Kunstboek

This art form casts a whole new light on the use of floral containers as they are chosen to complement the concept and lines of the arrangement. Virtually any vessel can be turned into an ikebana container with the help of a kenzan (a flower frog) to hold the flowers in place. 
Below: images via Kinfolk

For many of its practitioners, Ikebana is a lifelong lesson, a way to achieve a little inner stillness in which to work towards a richer spiritual understanding of the world, just like the Zen monks do through their meditation techniques. A classic Ikebana text lists the ten virtues of an Ikebana master, powerful indeed:

Do not discriminate
Develop a peaceful mind
Develop a selfless mind
Develop a graceful mind
Make friends without words
Seek a closeness to the Divine
Learn about plants
Gain respect
Be aware of scents all the time
Dismiss any harmful thoughts

Foul Play


Marcel Proust was right: nothing can trigger a powerful, emotional memory quicker than a scent. Signature floral perfumes have left indelible impressions on many gentleman suitors throughout the ages. The lily-of-the-valley, Christian Dior's lucky flower, is forever associated with this couture house. More recent floral scents include Flowerbomb by Viktor & Rolf, Flora by Gucci and Daisy by Marc Jacobs. But not all flowers are team players. In order to attract specific insects, which in turn will act as potential pollinators, some blooms emit an altogether foul smell. Here are a few examples of flowers you really don't want to include in your tabletop arrangement:

Titan Arum
Its nickname, Corpse Flower, says it all: this massive bloom is quite dramatic, but smells like a rotting corpse in order to attract insects that prefer to lay their eggs in dead things. For added effect, the inside of the bloom is the color of red meat. The only good news is that the flower's bloom doesn't last very long, only about 24 to 48 hours, and this only happens once every four to six years. 
(Image via the Botanical Garden at Berkeley)

Rafflesia Arnoldii
One of the three national flowers in Indonesia, this one shares the same nickname with Titan Arum. It is also the largest individual flowers in the world as it weighs in around 10 kg and usually has a diameter of about three feet. Also noteworthy is that Rafflesia Arnoldii flower is parasitic, and has no roots, leaves or stems.
(Image via World of Flowering Plants)

Hydnora Africana
Possibly the least charming of the bunch is Hydnora Africana, a fleshy parasitic plant native to southern Africa that emits the smell of feces to attract dung beetles, its pollinators of choice. This bizarre-looking plant, often mistaken for a fungus, grows almost entirely underground except for its bloom.
(Image via Gardening Know How)

Dracunculus Vulgaris
The beauty award among the carrion flowers goes to Dracunculus Vulgaris for its spectacular purple color palette. There are widespread erotic connotations resulting from its shape, explaining the nickname Viagra Lily.
(Image via Youtube)

Lysichiton Americanus
AKA American Skunk Cabbage is a perennial herb native to California, whose repulsive smell sticks around long after the blooms have dried. Not to worry: Lysichiton Americanus has not been invited to the San Francisco Fall Art & Antiques Show :)
(Image via Bodnant Garden Centre)


Tiptoe Through the Tulips


September 1, 2017, will see the release of the movie Tulip Fever, written by Tom Stoppard and starring Alicia Vikander, Dane DeHaan and Christophe Waltz, a historical drama set in the Netherlands in the 17th century, during the period of the tulip mania.
Tulip mania was a period in the Dutch Golden Age during which prices for bulbs of the recently introduced tulip reached extraordinarily high levels and then dramatically collapsed in February 1637. It is generally considered the first recorded speculative bubble – centuries before the dot-com bubble of the 1990's or the US housing market collapse in 2008.

Below: from Carlton Hobbs, a tulip-form silver pokal by Simon Lang and marked with the Hebrew letters Aleph Shin Aleph, Nuremberg, circa 1660.

It's not hard to understand how this much-loved flower, introduced in the Netherlands from the Ottoman Empire, became such an overnight success. It was different from every other flower known to Europe at that time, with a saturated intense petal color that no other plant had, and quickly became a status symbol for the affluent Dutch traders.

Below, from Arader Galleries: Tulipa Suaveolons, Plate 111, 1802-1816, hand-colored stipple engraving by botanical artist Pierre-Joseph Redouté.

Tulips quickly became a coveted luxury item, and many varieties were cultivated. Among the more curious and rare was the Bizarden or Bizarre Tulip, which had yellow or white streaks of color over a purple or red petal. It is now known that this effect is due to the bulbs being infected with a type of tulip-specific mosaic virus, known as the Tulip breaking virus, so called because it "breaks" the one petal color into two or more.

Below left: from Haynes Fine Art,  Spring by Cecil Kennedy, British 1905 – 1997, Oil on canvas, signed lower right.
Below right: from Lang Antiques, enameled tulip brooch rendered in rich 18 karat yellow gold and green emeralds.

To this day, the Netherlands remains synonymous with the tulip, as is evident in the 1950's hit Tulips from Amsterdam and the ever-growing popularity of the Keukenhof gardens, the world’s largest flower garden (80-acres) and a horticultural essay in superlatives, which attracts more than 700,000 visitors each year. Every year, Keukenhof showcases over seven million tulips – as well as hyacinths and daffodils - ablaze with pink, red, purple, yellow, lavender and orange. Enjoy!

Below, Keukenhof image via Baby Apple


Frozen in time


The semi-annual fashion shows by Belgian fashion designer Dries Van Noten have never really been a run-of-the-mill affair. From an impromptu street performance in an obscure Paris quartier to a candlelit sit-down dinner for hundreds, memorable is an inadequate word to describe his fashion happenings.

But for his spring 2017 ready-to-wear show, he knocked the stylish socks off even the most jaded fashionistas, and that's not an easy feat. He asked Japanese flower artist Azuma Makoto to reprise his Iced Flowers show: intricate flower bouquets were frozen in ice and served as columns along the runway, the perfect complement for a series of floral-print garments. It was a memorable mash-up moment of quiet drama and outrageous beauty – flower power at its best! (photos via

A rose is a rose is a rose (Gertrude Stein, 1913)


While many of us link roses with romance and love, this wasn't always so. In fact, this gorgeous bloom was associated with one of the bloodiest conflicts of 15th century England. The Wars of the Roses were a series of wars for control of the throne of England fought between supporters of two rival branches of the royal House of Plantagenet: the House of Lancaster (associated with a red rose), and the House of York (whose symbol was a white rose). This 30-year feud finally ended with the death of Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth.
Below, from Carlton Hobbs:
A fine floral painted KPM circular porcelain plaque signed KRÜGER FECIT 1819. Berlin, 1819.

Nowadays, long-stemmed red roses are practically synonymous with Valentine’s Day. This tradition of giving Valentine’s Day flowers dates back to the late 17th century, during the reign of King Charles II of Sweden. During a trip to Persia, King Charles II was exposed to a new art—the language of flowers, the ability to communicate using flowers without uttering any words at all. The fad boomed throughout Europe, with lists of flowers and their meanings widely distributed. The red rose translated of course to deep love.
Below, from Butchoff Antiques:
A five-fold screen in the early romantic manner. French, circa 1880.

The rose took on this meaning because of its affiliation with Aphrodite, the goddess of love. In Greek mythology, it is said that rose bushes grew from the ground through Aphrodite’s tears and the blood of her lover, Adonis. The Romans, who turned Aphrodite into their goddess Venus, kept the rose as her symbol of love and beauty. So when Valentine’s Day became the mainstream holiday we know today, the rose was an obvious choice for the most fitting gift.
Below, from Philadelphia Print Shop West:
Rosa Ferox and Rosa Indica, from Roses: or Monograph of the Genus Rosa. London, 1805. Engraved and hand colored by H.C. Andrews.

Did you know that there are symbolic meanings associated with other rose colors as well? Yellow roses send a message of appreciation and platonic love without the romantic subtext of other colors. Shades of lavender roses suggest an air of regal majesty and splendor. Dark pink roses are symbolic of gratitude and appreciation, and are a traditional way to say thanks. Light pink roses are associated with gentleness and admiration, and can also be used as an expression of sympathy. 
Below, from Earle D. Vandekar of Knightsbridge Inc.:
German Porcelain Trompe L'oeil Rose Tea Service, 19th Century. 

Also known as the bridal rose, the white rose is a traditional wedding flower. In this sense, white represents unity, virtue, and the pureness of a new love. White roses are also associated with honor and reverence, which makes them a fitting memorial for a departed loved one. Finally, orange roses – being a mixture of yellow and red - were seen as a bridge between friendship symbolized by yellow roses and love represented by red roses.
Below, from Haynes Fine Art:
Shades of Spring by Marcel Dyf
Oil on canvas, signed lower right. French 1899-1985.