Laura Dowling’s new photo book, Floral Diplomacy at the White House (Stichtung Kunstboek), gives a behind-the-scenes look at White House flower decorations, including the traditions, design concepts and logistics that go into them.
“Flowers are so universal . . . that the messages they communicate track back to all kinds of cultures,” said Dowling, who was chief floral designer at the White House from 2009 to 2015. “Flowers should create excitement and energy, lifting the spirits of people in the room.”
Some highlights from an AP interview discussing Michelle Obama:
AP: What was it like working with the first lady?
Dowling: She seemed to know that flowers could be a powerful tool for making people feel welcome, and at that point she really wanted to open up the White House to all Americans. We talked about that . . . and the ability to work with these high-end flowers combined with more common, seasonally available ones, and how that tied to the way she was working with fashion.
Did she have any favorite flowers or colors?
Mrs. Obama always favored the brighter, more vivid shades. She would gravitate toward displays that made a bolder statement. And she really liked garden flowers like roses and hydrangeas, the pretty flowers that grow together in the garden.
Do the floral displays change a lot from one administration to the next?
Yes. What’s so interesting about the White House is that there really are no rules or guidelines, and each administration sets its own tone.