WHAT MUSE BECKONS from the lush landscape of Louisiana to Samantha Bates? What creations does it call forth and what sense of home does it offer to her? As a decorated artist with growing national acclaim, Samantha could live anywhere and utilize her range of extraordinary talents in a variety of ways, but expressing herself as a floral artist from her picturesque storefront in Ponchatoula, she says, is what she is most inspired to do.
A native New Orleanian, Samantha has been an avid artist her entire life. After studying painting, drawing, printmaking and ceramics in college, she found her home in floristry. “I met my husband, Cyrus, at Southeastern and we both fell in love with this area and wanted to stay.” Samantha had the good fortune to be let go from her first job. She then fashioned her own future using a diverse art background to bring a unique perspective to floral design. “The owner of Especially For You Florist gave me a shot. Nine months later I bought the business, and I’ve been growing here for ten years.”
But don’t let Samantha’s quaint location in “America’s Antique City” fool you about her abilities or her ambitions. When she’s not traveling around the country competing in—and winning—floral competitions, Samantha channels her fun and fearless demeanor into exceptionally beautiful designs for clients big and small from South Louisiana to surrounding states. Influenced by her love of architecture, Samantha says she’s built an industry reputation as an armaturist on the competitive circuit. Traditionally, an armature is a metal framework on which a sculpture is molded. In the floral world, the design possibilities are as endless as the imagination, and Samantha is known for the intriguing inner muse that inspires her. Her list of accolades is too long to recount, but along with being named The Northshore’s Best Florist multiple times, highlights include being named to Florist Review Magazine’s 2017 “Top 35 Under 35” in the United States and winning the coveted Jim Johnson Cup in 2018 and 2020. She was also selected to compete in the America’s Cup in Washington DC where she impressively won 3rd runner up to represent the US in the World Cup.
Samantha says that regional and national competitions she has won are akin to competing on Chopped. “They’re live, stage competitions. You’re given a bucket of flowers and a time limit. Sometimes there’s a theme and sometimes it’s freestyle.” Even as she openly explains the artistic process amongst colorful arrangements and towering, in-progress floral sculptures inhabiting her shop, there is an air of mystery as to how disparate elements are transformed into beautifully compelling pieces. Her magic has transformed a humble piece of driftwood into an elegant, beach-inspired centerpiece bursting with blooms; ping-pong balls have been charmed into giant pearls arranged in cascading circles surrounding yellow and white blossoms; and for her cover shoot, she has created an elaborate wedding ceremony piece that celebrates the Louisiana landscape. The seven-foot armature is constructed in two pieces with a backdrop of pampas grass and metallic-pink-dusted palmetto fronds adorned by pink Mondial and Candlelight roses, contrasting rust-colored chrysanthemums and dried eucalyptus. “This piece is inspired by the local landscape, but it has a fun and festive take on it. I put the base greenery on the frame before transporting it here to Carter Plantation but constructed the rest of it on-site in just about an hour.”
Combining her award-winning artistry with the innate ability to tell a client’s story is the most fulfilling aspect of her business. She has manifested and elevated seeds of an idea into works that range from fiery to fairytale and everything in between. “I especially like working with brides. I treat every wedding as if it’s my own because mine didn’t go smoothly. My mission is that they are one thousand percent satisfied with minimal stress.” Samantha starts with the bride’s inspiration pictures. “Some are consistent, and others are all over the place,” she laughs. “I tell them not to overthink it and go with their first instinct. The most fun is when they give me free reign—even if it’s just for one aspect like the sign-in table. Then I can blow them away by pushing the boundary of their theme in some unexpected way. I want to expand people’s overall thought and expectation about what can be done with flowers.”
Because she works in national circles, Samantha sees trends before they make their way to Louisiana. “Color is the key trend. There needs to be a contrasting pop of color in the bouquet that coordinates with the overall scheme. I know what’s in season and can get flowers from all around the world, so I try not to overwhelm them with the hundreds of flower choices. They can leave that up to me once we decide on the palette.” With the chosen hues in mind, Samantha sets to interpreting the bride’s vision as she has done hundreds of times before, creating fantastic arrangements that are like no other.
Whether it’s the small detail of crafting the groom’s boutonniere to reflect his love of mallard ducks or orchestrating a fantastical flowerscape for a high-end wedding, Samantha’s muse has certainly inspired her to think ‘beyond the bouquet’ to elevate her floral work into works of art.
Samantha Bates, AIFD is the owner of Especially For You Florist, located at 124 East Pine Street in Ponchatoula. For more information, call 985-370-0445, email [email protected] or visit efyfloral.com.