By Lucy Dotson
Photos by Michael Loccisano
for Getty Images
2 am, Chelsea. A taxi grinds to a halt, circled in streetlight. Alix Astir, the strikingly beautiful CEO of Trellis Fine Florals, steps out, her signature moto jacket draped across slim shoulders. She’s here to buy flowers, a morning ritual, and one she insists on doing herself, despite heading up one of the city’s most luxurious floral design studios.
Alix explores the corners of Manhattan’s flower district with commanding charisma. Vendors nod in recognition…and respect. She moves deftly from storefront to awning, navigating one of the nation’s most historic markets like the insider she was born to be. Alix lingers over some roses, running a manicured finger over blush-hued petals. “Fresh flowers have life in them,” she says. “They’re vibrant, strong, unbending. These have probably been in the warehouse a week. See how they are starting to goose neck?” She points at a floppy rose head, and moves on, assessing more blooms.
It’s no accident that Alix Astir became New York’s Rose Queen. She strives to be the Anna Wintour of roses: a connoisseur known for a flick of the wrist, a subtle nod to the way art beds commerce, and we all stand to benefit. “This is New York, baby. We get to choose perfection here: isn’t that incredible?” she says, with a wink that broadcasts floral runway supermodel having the time of her life.
With dawn breaking, Alix returns to the studio, blooms in tow. There, she taps into her creative side. “Sometimes, I watercolor a design first, to make sure it captures the right mood,” she says. “I’ve spent full nights in the studio, and hours on a single arrangement, getting it just right.” While she oversees a team of designers, Alix takes on many of her projects singlehandedly. “It’s just me and the wellspring of the universe within me. I love to go into The Zone, where you lose time and space, and it’s only you and your masterpiece,” she says.
Asked how she became a floral designer, Alix laughs. “I was raised to be conscious of the seasons, the rhythms of nature, what grows where. As a child I was fascinated by the magic of growth. When I got older, I studied the science and art of it. For me, there’s nothing else worth doing.” The formally trained florist was initiated at l’Ecole des Fleurs at l’Hôtel de Crillon in Paris, and later studied at the New York Botanical Garden. She earned the title Rose Queen a year ago. “One of my most important clients, whom I can’t name, started calling me that…and before I knew it everyone was. I’d pick up the phone at Trellis, and people would ask, ‘Is this the Rose Queen?’ I was as surprised as anyone else – but it stuck!”
An understated force, Alix connects deeply with her work. “My passion is nature, and design is my respite. I don’t hear or see anything else for those hours,” she says. The result is inspired, creative design – tailored tabletops, lush bouquets, and cascading waterfalls of blooms. Alix’s care and talent have served her well, and her work has been lauded by the likes of international socialite and songwriter Denise Rich, Sarah Ferguson, The Duchess of York and other glamour moguls.
Trellis’s bouquets are unusually dynamic and worldly: apt for a woman who has roamed the world, studied global literature, and settled right back in her hometown. Indeed, with her special flair for roses and focused customer service, Alix has penned more than a title for herself among the city’s floral elite. In the past two months, Alix has designed arrangements for some of the season’s most high profile social events: monumental arrangements in antiquated urns for the New York Mission Society’s Champions for Children Gala at the Plaza; cascades of snowy orchids at the Surgeons of Hope Gala; and 40 impeccably tailored handbags made entirely out of flowers for the New York Junior League’s Bags and Bubbles charitable fundraiser. She’s slated to provide flowers for Denise Rich’s Angel Ball, the legendary fundraising event for cancer research.
“When designing arrangements, perfection is something I strive for – while still enjoying the wild reality of nature,” says Alix. In art, she explains, unpredictability can complement a perfect moment – but only when it’s embraced. “I notice the divergence most when working with brides. We live in a strange society that places too much emphasis on the perfection of the wedding day, instead of enjoyment. If my brides would simply relax, they’d enjoy the floral design process more.” Alix is currently working on DIY for the Elegant Bride, her first book. “This volume will dispel all of the DIY misconceptions – that flowers can be done day of, that you’ll automatically save money, that you have to stick to the plan – and really help them pull it off.” Additionally, Alix is working on American Beauty: A celebration of fine American Floral Design, a coffee table book, and writing a memoir of her travels through France.
Alix has been creating lavish visions in flowers for years – but she learns the most working within restrictions. “If the sky’s the limit budget-wise, why wouldn’t the flowers be astonishing? In my mind, the mark of a truly talented designer is when she can create something stylish on a tight budget, “ she says. “Of course, it’s best if the designer has free reign, so she can grab whatever is amazing and in season.”
Floral design is much more than placing a flower here versus one there. “There are many misconceptions about what I do,” Alix says. “Some might assume I’m gracefully swanning around with my rose pruners, delicately clipping at leaves.” The reality is much messier, and requires constant discipline: in addition to 2AM flower pickups, Alix is courier, carpenter, manual laborer, and director. “I’m on my feet for hours at a time – and I oversee the total organized chaos in between.”
So how does the Rose Queen feel about her crown? “It’s very flattering. It speaks to a certain level of achievement, and that feels great,” she says. “But I won’t lean back, nor will I be able to. That’s the thing about recognition – the next day, you have to get up and be even more spectacular. You have to innovate, reinvent, and find new ways to approach your work. I strive to exceed client expectations, even when they’re sky high.”
With an attitude like that, this Rose Queen will reign for years to come.