“My mom is a lover of plants,” says Sophie Yingling. Her own proclivity for floral design was born, she’s sure, in the “room full of plants and sunshine” her mother tended in the Truro house where she grew up.
The family had a big vegetable garden, too. “I’m a vegetarian,” says Yingling. “I knew when I was seven years old that I wanted to eat the things that grew there.”
But blooms were what she liked best. She remembers learning to watch the progress of the seasons — first the daffodils, then lilacs. “When I got my first camera, flowers were what I took pictures of,” she says.
“My mother is an intuitive gardener,” Yingling continues. “One thing she taught me is that you listen to figure out what the plants need. And to figure out what the people in your life need, too.”
And so, around Mother’s Day last year, when the pandemic and the political situation painted a not-very-rosy picture of spring, Yingling knew what people needed: flowers.
“The joy and comfort that flowers can bring is more powerful than people imagine,” she says.
Her friends Meghan O’Connor and Dani Niedzielski, who own the Provincetown boutique and tea shop called the Captain’s Daughters, invited her to design Mother’s Day bouquets for a pop-up flower shop.
That suited Sophie, who, as much as she loves floral design, has a demanding day (and night) job — she runs Spiritus Pizza. “I love my job right now,” she says. “I just haven’t figured out how to fully integrate flowers into my summer routine, though I think about it every year.”
When she does get the chance to work with flowers, either for Mother’s Day or for a friend’s wedding, Yingling says she’s “fascinated with finding the best of the best.” She’s not as concerned with design principles as she is with starting with a perfect bloom.
She prioritizes what’s flowering locally, when that makes sense. Mostly, she buys from the Floral Reserve, the wholesale side of Rhode Island floral artist Semia Dunne’s floral design studio.
Yingling can’t say what makes a perfect Mother’s Day bouquet. “That depends,” she says, “because flowers hold different meanings for different people.” Instead, she listens, and lets the flowers do the right thing for the moment at hand.
“Last year I did a bright palette,” she says, describing the Mother’s Day bouquets designed when the pandemic was new. “It was neon orange and bright pink and yellow, bright and beautiful. That just seemed important.
“This year,” Yingling says, “I am pulling back a little from those colors. I’m looking at peonies and rununculus, and maybe roses. And there will be some surprises.
“This year is different,” she adds, “but bouquets still feel important.”
Sophie Yingling’s Stems by the Sea are available by pre-order at captainsdaughters.com.