Florist Friday: Kiana Underwood of Tulipina
Kiana Underwood is the force behind Tulipina, a floral design studio and boutique based in San Francisco. A social media force known for gravity-defying bouquets and the DIY section of her blog, Kiana has been featured in 100 Layer Cake, The Knot, Elle Decor and Country Living, among others.
Underwood’s designs stay honest to the her flowers’ beginnings and natural beauty. Most of them are tender and simple– the arrangement you wish you had done. Or, they impress with abundant, lush arrangements that spill over themselves and stun you with a kind of overwhelming luxuriousness. Since founding Tulipina, Underwood’s work has been defined by an underlying elegance. As an entrepreneur, she has turned her passion into a full-fledged business, running not only one of the most sought-after floral boutiques in the country, but organizing workshops and other events that cannot be missed.
How did you get into flowers? Did you grow up gardening?
KU: I grew up around flowers all my life. My grandfather had a beautiful garden where I spent a lot of time as a little girl, and my mother always had fresh flowers in our house. This environment really kindled my love for flowers, and is definitely something that formed the basis for how I design today.
Did you have a gateway flower? For example, a flower you completely fell in love with that led to a larger love of flowers, or a flower that you tend to zoom in on whenever it’s in season?
KU: My mother, who loves aromatic flowers such as tuberose, hyacinth and narcissus, instilled my love for flowers in me from a very early age. So, there really was no “one” flower that drew me into floral design; however, the flower that I “zoom in on” is always gardenia.
How do you keep your creative drive going?
KU: A beautiful or unusual colored flower or an interesting botanical specimen is what drives my creativity. I want to take it and see what I can do with it!
What does a typical, say, Tuesday look like for you?
KU: I usually visit the San Francisco Flower Mart very early in the morning, before any member of my family is awake. By the time I’m back and doing the unloading it’s time to take my children to school. Once they are gone, I have about 7 hours to do what most mothers do (laundry, dinner, walk the dog) and tend to my business. After my children are home from school, I continue to work, but also supervise their homework and music practice. This is pretty much my day every day.
What are some of your favorite local spots?
KU: I love going to nurseries! There are a few near my home which I frequent regularly— Golden Nursery, Half Moon Bay Nursery, and if I’m up for the drive, I’ll visit Annie’s Nursery-– which is about an hour away from me. They have an amazing selection of unusual botanicals. I also love going to my local bakery.
Do you have a favorite garden?
KU: I have visited and enjoyed many gardens, but the Butchart Gardens in Victoria [British Columbia] have to be my favorite, followed [as] a close second by Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania.
How do you dress for summer weather? How does your summer style differ from your winter style?
KU: I like to wear summer dresses when it’s warm with comfortable, cute shoes. During winter I love wearing scarves.
How would you describe your style? How has it evolved over time?
KU: I would describe my designs as lush, abundant, and organic. I think that my style has become increasingly free-flowing over time, and my use of color and texture in arrangements is what wins people’s admiration.
What are your other floral design influences?
KU: Music and art are what influence my work.
If you could travel to any one destination, floral-wise, where would you go?
KU: If I could travel for flowers, it would be the Netherlands in spring.
How does social media affect your business? How do you interact with it?
KU: Social media, especially Instagram, is the primary vehicle that gets me out there to new (potential) customers. [Editor’s note: Her Instagram is very impressive.]
KU: A double Americano with cream.