In full bloom

Shannon Cosgrove-Rivas

PHOTO by Lisa baetz

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It's nearly wedding season, which means it's Shannon Cosgrove-Rivas’ busy stretch of the year. Think bridal bouquets, elaborate table arrangements and other sweet-smelling floral touches. It's not just about getting hitched, however. As founder of Flourish, Cosgrove-Rivas specializes in all kinds of event planning. Whatever the occasion, she brings a hip, modern touch to bouquets and other floral designs. The designer talked to SN&R about bouquet trends—chevron stripes!—1990s throwbacks and the thorny issue of DIY design.

How did you first get into floral design?

My aunt was also a florist, and so I already had an interest and education in it. I started when I was going to [Sacramento] City College. I saw an ad on an employment board for a floral shop on Freeport [Boulevard] looking for help balancing the books. I was working on the shop's old ledger books and using a typewriter because it was 1989, and not all businesses had jumped to computers yet. When I finished with the books, I would come up to the front and help with customers and learn how to process flowers. From there I realized that this was something I wanted to do. Working with flowers really resonated with me, and I knew I wanted to do it in a unique and more modern way.

First legit flower job?

After that, I began to work in the floral department of the [Sacramento Natural Foods] Co-op, and then a few other floral shops to learn various aspects of the business.

In 1994, I opened Blooming Art—a local art gallery and flower shop—and a second shop called Bella Fiore in Fair Oaks. I eventually sold them both, as I realized I wanted to work in the event-design sector of floral design, because I loved doing large projects and working with brides.

Biggest emerging floral trends?

For a while, we did a lot of antique bottles with homey flowers. This year? It's all about coral, peaches, ivory and taupe colors in flowers. Colors are often cyclical and follow the trends you see in fashion. Keeping that in mind, floral prints—natch—and patterns. In a few years, expect lots of chevron and stripes.

Advice to brides?

Any time there is a trend and you want to be ahead of the curve, just look at what everyone is doing and do the exact opposite. Some of what I see happening—or going back to—is floral design [that's] going opulent. It might not be as over-the-top as we saw in the '90s, but certainly taller centerpieces and large, elevated drama.

If you could turn your worst enemy into the ugliest—in fact, your most despised flower ever—what would it be?

Ooh … OK. … My most despised flower [is the] Leptospermum [scoparium]. It's really ugly, and I'm super allergic. It has a thorn on it that makes me break out in hives.

OK, now imagine that the bride tells you it’s her favorite flower. How would you turn that into something awesome?

(Laughs.) I would try to discourage a bride, and tell them how I break out into hives and suggest that it might happen to them, too.

Floral trend you would like to see go away?

The DIY thing is hanging on for dear life. The thing is, when you're sitting in your sweats in January with a bunch of Costco roses and you have three hours to make a decent-looking bouquet, that's one thing. Trying to make your first bouquet the day before the wedding when you have family flying in, last-minute plans to deal with and bridesmaid drama—you're just not going to have the bouquet of your dreams.

I've been doing this for 25 years, and it takes me 90 minutes to make a truly elegant bouquet, and six hours to do set up on the day of. DIY is great when you have no wedding going on, but you have to be realistic. Part of what you pay a florist for is to take care of all the logistics.

Most unique customer request?

I have a client who is basing their colors after their favorite football team—the Green Bay Packers. This is always a real challenge for me to take something like this and make it elegant. Sometimes I get ideas that are so wackadoo, it becomes a real project to make it something that I'm truly proud of—and nothing that I wouldn't want in my own house ever goes out.

Worst request?

The worst is when a client brings a magazine picture of a $4,000 centerpiece and they want to do it “exactly like this” on a $40 budget. Usually, we can come to a fair compromise and still execute their overall idea, but sometimes not.