Beauty at Sea: Flowers Come Aboard

Flowers Boats East End
Clarke’s Garden & Home makes a delivery to Mitchell Park Marina in Greenport. 
Courtesy of Clarke’s Garden & Home

Wander around any marina in East Hampton, Shelter Island, Montauk , Greenport and beyond, and you’re sure to spy a blaze of blooms aboard boats docked in harbor.

If you’re invited on deck, you might catch a glimpse of more flowers in the stateroom or dining area, or peek into the bedroom for yet more fabulous flora.

Flowers, boats
A perennially popular arrangement for boats from East Hampton FlowersCourtesy of East Hampton Flowers

Don’t Rock the Boat: Keep it Low

Having flowers aboard boats isn’t a new phenomenon, says Peter Clarke, owner of Clarke’s Garden and Home, who’s been delivering beautiful blossoms to boats docked in Mitchell Marina and Safe Harbor in Greenport and Port of Egypt in Southold for the 13 years he’s owned his Greenport business.

Orchids are always popular, says Clarke, who notes that he typically deals with boat managers, not the owners of the boats, making weekly deliveries for ships when they’re in port.

“A lot of orchids are easy to keep going, on board,” he explains.

Flowers, boats
A low profile wooden centerpiece, as seen in this one by Clarke’s Garden & Home, is best for boats since conditions on the water aren’t always ideal.Courtesy of Clarke’s Garden & Home

Centerpieces for deck dining tables and indoor dining room tables are the highlight of nautical flower accents, Clarke says.

Ever mindful of conditions on the water, which can be somewhat rocky at times, you have to ensure that the arrangements are stable. Low profile items – any combination of shorter vases, vessels or trays – work best.

“Some ships have built-in taller vases that are part of the setup,” says Clarke. “ For those built-in vases, you can do a typical, foyer-style tall arrangement.

For centerpieces, classic and modern arrangements with greens, blues and whites are in vogue, as well as a nod toward the tropical flair, which includes bird-of-paradise blossoms and anything with colorful foliage, like anthurium. Also in demand: just the bird-of-paradise foliage, or monstera, or other tropical leaves.

“You want to make sure it’s something that withstands the light and conditions,” notes Clarke. “There’s usually air conditioning and a lot of light, so it can be somewhat dry.”

Flowers, boats
Notice this centerpiece from Clarke’s Garden & Home does not contain lilies — a big “no no” on
Courtesy of Clarke’s Garden & Home

No Lilies, Please

When it comes to boats, “the bigger the better,” says Michael Lucci, owner of East Hampton Flowers, who delivers mostly to the Sag Harbor and East Hampton marinas.

“One boat we deliver to is actually too big even for the harbor,” says Lucci. “They have to dock out off-shore and they come in on a little dinghy and pick everything up.”

Avoiding anything that’s potted or requires watering, Lucci designates flowers for inside the boat or out on deck and generally chooses stems that are on the shorter side, except for orchids.

“They get lots of orchids,” he says, noting that the most popular are white phalaenopsis, also known as “moth orchids.” Potted orchids, he notes, are the only potted plants he’s ever used for boats.

Often, the boat owners/managers will provide containers pre-season and Lucci will find similar ones to keep swapping out each week.

“They have to be very specific with their containers. They like white and everything classic,” he says.

One desired look is either one type of flower, or one- or two-color schemes of just white or white and green.

For whites, Lucci uses orchids, hydrangea, roses, peonies, hellebore, and hyacinth. For greens, he chooses between Israeli or Italian ruscus.

One of East Hampton Flowers’ perennially popular arrangements is “Spring in the Hamptons,” which features the Star of Bethlehem, white roses, blue thistle, blue hyacinth, seeded eucalyptus and mini green hydrangea.

Never use lilies, warns Lucci, because they have little pistils that get powdery. “And if you get those things on a multi-million dollar boat, it’s hard to get out,” he says.

White, White, White

Most people on boats go for tropicals that are going to last in the sun, says Mary Persan, owner of Strawberry Fields Flowers & Gifts in Montauk.

“Then you’ll get a lot of them who’ll do just hydrangeas, all whites, for the inside of the boat, that’s air-conditioned,” says Persan, who delivers to Montauk Yacht club, Star Island Yacht Club, Montauk Lake Club & Marina, East Lake Marina and Westlake Marina.

For tropicals, Persan will do either birds-of-paradise, ginger, or orchids. For the interiors, many people opt for white hydrangea and/or white roses, mostly set in low vases or containers.

The blooms usually last a week to ten days. After that, it’s time for another delivery of fresh flowers to beautify and perfume these glorious floating abodes.

This article appeared in the July 2022 edition of Behind The Hedges. Read the full digital edition here.