Local Color

. May 1, 2015.

Whan that Aprille with his shoures soote

The droghte of March hath perced to the roote

And bathed every veyne in swich licour

Of which vertu engendered is the flour…


…Then, hey nonny nonny hey hey! It’s that time of year, dear Reader, when my man Geoff-y Chaucer and I rejoice in the return of spring (which cranks up a bit later in the year here in Michigan than it does in Canterbury), and we once more enjoy the sights and smells of flowery delights. While my thumb is decidedly gray when it comes to successful gardening, there are among us talented people who have a magical touch when it comes to showing flora off to her best advantage. Enter Katherine Yates, lead designer of Ann Arbor’s Pot & Box, a florist with a true artist’s eye.

“I’m constantly amazed by plants,” Yates declares. “I get a lot of inspiration from nature…I’ve always gotten so much from being outside, and I’ve always felt the need to help others appreciate what you can get from nature.”

Natural history

Yates has spent most of her life getting in tune with the natural world. While studying at U-M’s School of Natural Resources, she worked part-time at a flower shop. “The designer there was just awesome, and I would watch her work and she would show me tricks of the trade…  I learned a lot about flowers and how to take care of them.” Botany classes taught her which varieties of plants are available during our changeable seasons, important information for her clients. “If someone is planning a spring wedding, I know what I can go outside and forage for.  A lot of brides will come in and say ‘I really want local flowers’.  We’ve got local suppliers, small farms, farmers markets. We also have a cutting garden here.”

That emphasis on locally sourced products is one of the elements that make Pot & Box stand out from other florists. Yates began assisting Lisa Waud, owner of Pot & Box, several years ago. It’s a business that has been getting national attention on wedding websites and bridal blogs for its imaginative designs. When Waud decided to expand to Detroit, she told Yates, “Katherine, you’re now in charge of the Ann Arbor studio.” 

That creative reputation presents an opportunity for Yates to bring her talents to the fore, particularly when the commission gives her free rein. “Clients will often say, ‘We know you do good work, so go for it!’ It’s definitely more challenging. However, there can be something more satisfying in that, as well, because if you’ve got something in your head that you’ve been thinking about, and you haven’t had time to bring it into fruition, then you can start and say, ‘Hey, this is a great opportunity for me to see about this idea that I’ve had in my head—can I actually make it work?’”

Ideas like a forest theme or a storybook character can inspire intriguing designs that aren’t necessarily confined to flowers. “I will start thinking of different things that remind me of woodland. What do you see in the woods? You see bark, you see tree branches, you see different colored leaves, you see moss, you see rocks. For Peter Rabbit, I see soft colors, lavenders, blushes, light blues, light yellows, but I also see a ton of vegetables.”  

This is not your FTD-style florist. A Pot & Box creation is more likely to feature dried leaves grouped with succulents than baby’s breath and orange blossoms. Yates admits, “I really love bringing in non-floral items. I love working with sticks and pods, moss and rocks…I did a bridal bouquet where the bride said ‘Feathers!’, and I got so excited.” 

As she prepares for a busy season of brides and outdoor fetes, Yates reflects on the ephemeral quality of her craft. It is an art form that is almost literally here today and gone tomorrow. Does she ever get wistful about the temporary nature of her creations? She muses, “There’s something so satisfying about creating something like a bouquet or arrangement and then stepping back and saying ‘My gosh, I love this’, and then, once you send it to the client, you let it go.”


pot & box floral design, 3756 Plaza Dr, Ann Arbor, 



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