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Cat Gentry Floral Design
June 24, 2024

Cat Gentry Brings the Outside In
By Tara Kelly
Photos by Sabrina Eberhard

Cat Gentry doesn’t just arrange flowers. She climbs trees to find the right branch for an arrangement, she forages in meadows for wildflowers, Queen Anne’s lace, and thistle to bring a touch of whimsy to her bouquets. She’s a self-professed country girl, and for her the natural world is a veritable supermarket of choices. 

“I’m always getting poison ivy and covered in ticks,” she says. But that seems a small price to pay to bring the outside in. “I don’t want everything to look like it came from a shop. I adore loose, wild arrangements. That’s why I like to add things from the field. It’s exciting when the unexpected works.” 

Gentry’s love of flora and fauna came early. She had one of those idyllic country childhoods complete with ponies, dogs, and the freedom to explore the North Carolina countryside. 

“My grandmother was an amazing gardener. And my mother had an incredible green thumb, both indoors and out. My earliest memories are of being sent out to pick daisies and daffodils,” she says. An avid gardener herself, as well as horseback rider and hiker, Gentry, who lives in Millbrook, is a close observer of nature. She sees the play of color, texture, light, and movement in the landscape as influencing her work. 

She credits Millbrook-based floral designer/gardener Felicity Banford Bontecou with getting her started in floral design and giving her formal training. “I was a single mom with three kids, and thought I had no skills. Then I realized that the passion I had for flowers was in fact a marketable skill. Felicity watched her crew like a hawk, but she also encouraged me to play and experiment.” Something she still does today. 

“When I have a lot of arrangements, I will mock up a couple, and then come back the next day and rework them. Sometimes I get carried away.”

It’s hard not to when there are so many wonderful blooms to choose from. Gentry’s list of favorites is long. “Spring tulips, of course. I love the showy flowers like peonies and lilacs. I’m passionate about hellebores. Nigella is a favorite in beautiful blue. In late June, it’s the bellflowers. I use stock and snapdragons to provide texture and depth to bounce off other stems. Calla lilies are classic. I’m always picking fresh stems from the local ‘pick-your-own’ farms. I use beaded eucalyptus, galas, moss for greenery, and I love lemon leaf.”

Gentry’s personal style is naturalistic. “One of my favorite designs was a meadowscape for a party in green and white using galax, fern, Astrantia, clematis, Scabiosa, wax flower, and stems of Queen Anne’s lace.” 

She has an eye for the unusual and inventive. Maybe that’s because she sees possibilities in everything. And when she talks about flowers it’s mostly in superlatives. Her list of favorites is all-inclusive. Though she says, “My favorite things change all the time.” —