For designer Carolyne Roehm, flowers always have been a source of inspiration, whether she was creating a gown or setting a table.
The author of 13 books on topics that include design in the garden and home will speak at a fundraiser luncheon for the Cedar Rapids Garden Club on Nov. 7.
“Obviously, flowers have been a very, very important part of my life,” Roehm said. “I’ll be speaking about flowers and gardening, in the context of every medium in which I have worked.”
Her love of all things floral started when she was young. Growing up in Missouri, she remembers playing on her grandparents’ farm, in the garden and with the animals.
“As a little girl I played dress- up and played florist,” she said. “My heart and soul is really in the outdoors and nature.”
Roehm, 67, started her career as a fashion designer in New York City, working for Oscar de la Renta before opening her own fashion house. But the love of nature never left her, and after 22 years she took a hiatus from the world of fashion to learn a new craft, taking an unpaid stint working at a flower shop in Paris.
There, she learned the intricacies of designing perfect bouquets and floral arrangements.
“I kind of took a sabbatical and decided I wanted to do things I’d never had time to do before,” she said.
It was a whole new kind of design, but in many ways, she said, it was familiar.
“To me, there is no difference. Flowers and nature teach us about color, about proportion, about line texture, about composition,” she said.
She went on to write 13 books, combining her love of gardens, fashion and interior design. Her latest book, “Design & Style: A Constant Thread,” published Sept. 25 by Rizzoli, is part memoir, part photo-laden coffee table book, mixing stories from her life and career with images of her gardens and design work.
“I wanted to show this relationship between gardening and fashion and flowers. Flowers have connected so much of what I’ve designed and created,” she said. “This is my relationship with nature and flowers.”
That’s an apt topic for her visit to the Cedar Rapids Garden Club, which has supported public beautification in Cedar Rapids, including the garden plots at Greene Square, the Living Learning Roof at the Cedar Rapids Public Library, the West Side Rising Memorial, plantings at The History Center and Cedar Rapids Fire Station and dozens of other projects dating back to 1927.
Roehm said she thinks gardens are important not just because they are aesthetically pleasing, but because they can inspire.
“I love flowers because they’re magical. Any spirituality I have comes out for the most part when I see something as beautiful as a peony, or even a simple carnation, or a pansy or a branch with leaves on it,” she said.
These days she splits her time among four residences — one in New York City, one in Colorado, a historic home she has been renovating in Charleston, S.C., and her primary residence in Connecticut.
“I don’t know what to get rid of, because I love them all,” she said. “When you decorate them and build some of them and do all that, it gets difficult to leave.”
As a girl, she had family in Iowa, and remembers celebrating a few Christmases in Cedar Rapids — but hasn’t been back since the 1950s.
Even as she’s lived in New York and Paris, she’s always carried a Midwestern sensibility with her, she said.
“I really like Midwesterners. There’s just something cozy about them and something positive about people from the Midwest. I think that’s been a plus for me,” she said. “It’s served me in life, being open and friendly.”
If you go
• What: Cedar Rapids Garden Club luncheon, lecture and book signing with Carolyne Roehm
• Where: Cedar Rapids Country Club, 500 27th St. Dr. SE, Cedar Rapids
• When: 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Nov. 7
• Cost: $85 to $100
• What: Patron party: Cocktails and conversation with Carolyne Roehm
• Where: 2345 Linden Dr. SE, Cedar Rapids
• When: 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Nov. 6
• Cost: $85
• Tickets for both events: cedarrapidsgardenclub.com/events.html
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