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Hamptons Life

Jan 2, 2010 1:09 AMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Lunch with Elizabeth Yastrzemski

Jan 2, 2010 1:09 AM

Water Mill-based gardener and floral designer Elizabeth Yastrzemski sat down for lunch last Friday at Sant Ambroeus in Southampton, one of the many places she does up for the holidays.

The self-employed designer, who grew up on the East End, shared some of her secrets for creating traditional holiday arrangements.

Q: Tell me a little bit about yourself.

A: I’ve been working as a gardener and flower designer for about 20 years and I decorate in the more traditional way. I grew up in the Seven Ponds area of Water Mill. When I began my business, I didn’t have a whole lot of money to buy the evergreens so I went out and pursued them. I found them growing in the woods on the properties of clients and utilized them that way.

Q: How did you get into the decorating side of your business?

A: I started out doing holiday decorations as a way of extending my season about 15 years ago, as the gardening season ends in autumn. I think Sant Ambroeus was one of my first clients to do the decorating here.

Q: Describe your style.

A: An eye toward composition, color and texture. I have an education in art, and having grown up in Water Mill, I know where the mosses grow and different plants. I can remember picking leaves of swamp maple and tupelo, making arrangements with that. And digging up plants and cutting branches. Since, I’m a local person, my upbringing strongly influenced me.

Q: You know the lay of the land.

A: Yeah, and I know the plants and where they grow.

Q: What are your favorite things to use for holiday decorations?

A: I work mainly with greens from the area. I cut them myself. Berries, different types of berries, winterberry, hedgeberry, of that sort. And I make custom garlands and wreaths and I embellish the wreaths with fruits, berries, pinecones, lights.

Q: Do you have favorite things you like to work with, particularly this time of the year?

A: Variegated holly mixed with magnolia and perhaps white pine and cedar. The blue of the cedar berries is so beautiful. I also like to use winterberry. It’s beautiful, brilliant, especially against the variegated holly.

Q: What type of upkeep should people expect for winter decorations?

A: This season it’s been really challenging with the wind and all the rain. The wind will really undermine garland and beats it against the wall. And of course, you need to keep the trees and other things well-watered so they don’t dry out.

Q: What is the most common request for holiday decorating?

A: Most often people want their entryway decorated. I’ve stuffed their containers with greenery and berries, wreaths and garland, or embellish with glass balls and lights. Inside it could be a flower arrangement, garland on the mantle or stairway, wreaths hung on the walls, things like that.

Q: Can you share some tips for someone who wants to decorate on their own? What would you suggest?

A: I would recommend buying a plain wreath from a garden center and embellishing it yourself. Look in your yard and see what appeals to you. If you have berries in your yard, then use them. You could use glass bulbs if the wreath is protected.

Q: Is there a good time line for putting up decorations and taking them down?

A: Outside of course, the live greens can last much longer. Inside, you have to be more careful because the things dry out quickly and can become brittle and fire hazards. Keep the Christmas tree well-watered and away from a heat source. Greens in a container will last several weeks.

Q: Do you have a favorite or memorable piece?

A: I just did a 6-foot wreath recently for a client in Southampton. It was interesting and fun. It weighed over a hundred pounds.

Q: What was it made of?

A: Variegated holly, pinecones, it had 1,200 lights on it. It took three men to get it up on the wall.

Q: Are there different or emerging trends in holiday decorating?

A: There are trends but I lean toward a more natural, traditional look.

Q: Is there a good winter plant that lives through February?

A: The only thing that would survive in the containers is some sort of evergreen, but you have to remember to water it if it’s in a covered area.

Q: When’s the next big time to decorate?

A: I think springtime is the most exciting time to decorate outside. Everyone is just so happy to see the color, the tulips, daffodils and hydrangeas. Especially since wintertime here is so long that the color is such a welcome sight.

Q: What are the other high points of the year for people to decorate?

A: Certainly Memorial Day, that’s the big push for getting things in order, planting containers around the entryway and such. That’s really my busiest time. And of course, through the summer and then autumn decoration.

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Elizabeth is being very modest. She is one of the most talented flower designers in the Southampton area. Her sense of color, texture and scale are truly amazing. And she is a lovely person with no ego getting in the way of her command of flowers and beauty.
By pheasant (1), southampton on Dec 23, 09 4:12 PM
I agree! I have been working with the very talented Betsy for more than a few years on Christmas decorations for our home ... I could never pull my house together for the Holidays without her ... she is fabulous and has a great eye.
By pkf242 (6), Watermill on Dec 23, 09 7:08 PM
Would anyone know if Elizabeth is related to the famous Red Sox Carl Yastrzemski ?
By ELECTRICUTIONER (65), east islip/montauk on Dec 23, 09 8:55 PM
I was wondering that myself.
By PrivateerMatt (390), Weesuck Creek , EQ on Dec 31, 09 6:32 PM
Elizabeth has wonderful talents and is a terrific person!
By michael daly (12), Sag Harbor on Jan 10, 10 9:33 PM
Elizabeth has wonderful talents and is a terrific person!
By michael daly (12), Sag Harbor on Jan 10, 10 9:33 PM