Pollen: Flowers as Art
Story by Kyle Tibbs Jones
Photos by Whitney Ott
When Barbara and I were brainstorming about which talented artist to feature, she kept mentioning Bonnie Garrison and Chris Condon. Every time she brought them up; I would say, “Now tell me who they are again?” Finally, we talked about Bonnie and Chris, the husband and wife team at Pollen, a flower shop in the Buckhead neighborhood of Atlanta. We looked at images of their work while Barbara shared the story of how they created the flowers for her wedding two years before. The photographs of their work stunned me. These were some of the most perfect arrangements I’d ever seen. I’ve been back in Atlanta for six years. How had I not heard of Pollen?
I love flowers. I’ve always claimed, the day I finally have a slightly bigger (okay, much bigger) budget, I want fresh flowers all the time. I want flowers in every room. Not stuffy, old fashioned arrangements. Overwrought florals actually depress me. I like flowers that are both cleanly arranged and modern or look just-picked, haphazardly thrown into a vase. Barbara was showing me photos of flowers arranged in a crisp, clean and contemporary way. Pollen’s work was anything but overwrought.
I immediately focus-grouped my in-the-know friends and discovered that, in Atlanta, there are two camps. Those obsessed with Pollen and those who’ve never heard of it. As I mentioned before, I fell into the never-heard-of-it-camp so I drove straight over to pay them a visit. Now… when I tell you that I immediately fell in love with Bonnie and Chris — their shop, their work and their quirky creative vibe — I’m serious. Here’s why:
Although it’s located near the shiny new Streets of Buckhead, the exterior of the shop feels like a slightly shabby beach hut with its big bleached gray wood deck and hippie greenhouse garden shed on the side. In the parking lot there’s a Scooby Doo-esque delivery van they call “The Blue Beast.” When I walk through the front door I’m transported to shops I’ve visited in Brooklyn, Austin or maybe Laguna Beach. There are beautiful flowers in unique vessels on every surface. There are wooden boxes filled with succulents, gorgeous handmade ceramics and scarves and blankets. I could go on and on.
There’s so much beauty to distract my ADD brain, I have to stop and concentrate on what she’s doing with the flowers. I see her arrangements are sophisticated but they’re also whimsical. Many of them are indeed vignettes unto themselves – a reason Barbara thought them such a perfect fit for this issue of Workbook. Using the most interesting combinations of color and texture, Bonnie’s flowers are works of art. Some are more painterly like an Old Master’s still life and others contemporary. All of her flowers are inventive and all of them are pretty.
Oh and there’s also the other half of this dynamic duo. While Chris is in the shop most every day, he is also a well-known Atlanta sculptor. His work can be found at The Signature Shop and Gallery in Atlanta and of course on his site. Occasionally, amongst Bonnie’s beautifully arranged explosion of flowers, they will display Chris’ pieces. If you’re lucky enough to visit on those days, it feels like you’ve wandered into a living breathing gallery installation.
So Pollen has that going for it as well. Art on top of art on top of art.
Bonnie & Chris taking a quick break for a photograph behind the flower shop.
~ Click through the gallery above to see a few of their amazing floral creations. ~
In our conversation that day I asked how these two met. “I worked at a wonderful plant nursery here in Atlanta, and Chris was hired by the owner to do a sculpture for a garden we were working on,” she said. “He was strictly an artist then, before he married into this and got a second job! And that was sort of that; we hit it off right away.”
We talked about the importance of finding joy in our life’s work. I asked Bonnie what made her happy. “Flowers. I really and truly never get tired of flowers,” she said. “Even when I am on a vacation and happy not to be working, I miss my flowers.”
Before leaving that day, I wondered aloud what she might do, were she not this super cool flower girl.
“Something outside. I have to be outside,” she said. “My favorite thing to do is take my dog, Frankie, for a long walk in the woods. But if you are asking what I might do for a living, well, I really don't know. Sometimes I like the idea of being a postman ... but like in a small New England town where I could walk my routes and know all the patrons. Pretty weird and specific, huh?”
I love the thought of Bonnie as a postman, but what I really love are her flowers. Whether Pollen is making arrangements for a party, putting together something cheerful for a sick friend, working on container gardens or making house calls for ailing orchids, their work is sophisticated, chic, and original. Indeed, it is art.
~ W ~