Bad Saint co-owner Genevieve Villamora arranging flowers
Bad Saint co-owner Genevieve Villamora Credit: Katie Dance for Bad Saint

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Many diners angle for a downstairs counter seat at Izakaya Seki, where you can watch Hiroshi Seki glide his knife through fish to slice sashimi. But you’re also in for a feast for the eyes if you’re seated in the upstairs dining room. Look to the window facing V Street NW to find an example of the centuries-old art of Japanese flower arranging known as ikebana. The living pieces of art crafted by Hiroshi’s daughter, Cizuka Seki, celebrate the seasons and set the mood for a beautifully presented meal.

Flowers are a part of the ambiance everywhere from fine dining restaurants to casual cafes. Until the pandemic limited lingering in the bakery, Buttercream Bakeshop beckoned customers to stay a while with a lush bouquet from local florist Darling & Daughters on its communal table. Both businesses opened around the same time and sought to support each other. “Having the fresh flowers in the shop really brought a brightness and sparkle to the space,” co-owner Tiffany MacIsaac says.

Plucked from the same earth to provide comfort and joy, flowers and food have always been fast friends. Now, during the trying times of the pandemic, some restaurateurs are letting their relationships with flowers blossom by selling bouquets.

Photo of sample bouquet courtesy of Darling & Daughters


Tail Up Goat, a Michelin-starred restaurant in Adams Morgan, is turning on the charm for Valentine’s Day by partnering with Darling & Daughters for the second year in a row. Customers who dine in or take dinner to go from Feb. 11 to 14 can opt to tack on an $80 bouquet. “Food and flowers are different ways to show care and love,” Tail Up Goat co-owner Jill Tyler says. “They’re ways you can surprise and delight someone.” 

Chef and co-owner Jon Sybert will serve a steakhouse-inspired menu on these four dates. Think shrimp cocktail, strip steak, and chocolate lava cake. Parties who dine on site will find their Darling & Daughters bouquets waiting for them at the table.

Maria Darling Young, who has a background in the hospitality industry, founded Darling & Daughters in 2016. The name, she jokes, is a play on Michael & Son contracting services. While weddings and events are “the marrow” of her work, Young sells weekly flower subscriptions and occasionally collaborates with other businesses.

For the four-day partnership with Tail Up Goat, Young’s envisioning a textured bouquet with whispers of early spring. “It doesn’t have to be red roses,” she says. “We can get local winter tulips. They might be purple, but that’s a beautiful romantic texture.”

She waxes poetic about how flowers accentuate the dining experience. “One thing I really do love about any celebration is the look of the feast,” Young says. “Food, flowers, and wine on a table have that temporal, fleeting feeling. This is the creation of a memory.”

Photo of one of Genevieve Villamora’s arrangements at Bad Saint by Katie Dance

Going Steady

Before the pandemic, Bad Saint co-owner Genevieve Villamora would make sure her Filipino restaurant in Columbia Heights always had a flower arrangement on display. “I love walking into a place and flowers are there to welcome you at the front,” she says. “Something about it reminded me about my family because my mom really loves to garden and we always had fresh flowers in the house. In the growing season it would be stuff she cut—roses, peonies, daffodils, and lilies.”

But like a lot of restaurants, much of Bad Saint’s business transitioned to takeout when it reopened in June 2020. Few people were crossing the threshold to see Villamora’s creations. As an additional way to earn revenue, Bad Saint partnered with Karma Farm in Maryland to sell bags of produce. Introducing flowers as a pick-me-up was the next logical step, according to Villamora. She can’t leave a farmers market without coming home with a spray of what’s in season.

Instead of partnering with a florist, Villamora conducted research and opted to make bouquets and holiday flower arrangements for Bad Saint customers herself. She’s mostly self-taught, having learned by watching her mother while growing up, but two books informed the distinctive style she’s striving for: Cultivated: The Elements of Floral Style by Christin Geall and Foraged Flora: A Year of Gathering and Arranging Wild Plants and Flowers by Louesa Roebuck and Sarah Lonsdale.

Villamora gained an appreciation for how to capture movement in a flower arrangement and how to direct eye movement from one side to the other from Geall. The other authors inspired her to try foraging.

“Louesa talks about the ethics and standards of foraging, like how you should only take one-tenth of what you find,” Villamora explains. “Sometimes the most beautiful things are in the most neglected places—in a river bed or on a chain-linked fence in a parking lot.”

Villamora gravitates toward honeysuckle and has a mental map of where to find pockets of it in D.C. when spring arrives. “When it’s in bloom, I literally fill my car up twice,” she says. “That book made me notice my environment more and made me look at things I might not have otherwise wanted to work with and see them as having so much potential. Like a tree at a bus stop you don’t notice until it turns beautiful colors in the fall.” 

Little of what Villamora forages makes it into bouquets during the winter months. Instead, she sources most of the flowers from Potomac Floral Wholesale and her home garden.

There are several ways customers can purchase Villamora’s arrangements on the Bad Saint website. Go to the pantry tab to purchase a hand-tied arrangement for $30. Then there’s the “gifts and merch” tab, which is for ordering biweekly flower subscriptions and buying special holiday arrangements like Christmas wreaths and Thanksgiving centerpieces. The restaurant is currently selling flower crowns and bouquets for Valentine’s Day.

“Flowers and food go together,” Villamora says. “Maybe it’s that they connect us to the natural world. That’s true for me.” They’ve also been an escape. If you’re elbow deep in dahlias, it’s hard to doom scroll on social media. “What I love about flowers is they make me very present in the moment, which over the past two years has been a really incredible gift,” she says. 

Photo of She Loves Me on Barracks Row by The Tangled Tomato

Moving In Together

A flower shop crept into a catering kitchen on Barracks Row in October 2021, wedding two pursuits that go hand in hand. Restaurateur Aaron Silverman took over 721 8th St. SE a couple of years ago and renovated it so it could serve as home base for Rose’s At Home. The catering arm of Rose’s Restaurant Group existed prior to the pandemic, but really took off when Washingtonians wanted to eat high-end meals at home.

Silverman didn’t want the storefront to sit dormant during the day, so he sought a retail partner in his longtime friend and florist Holley Simmons. “Aaron is slick and has known me for a long time,” she says. Simmons founded She Loves Me, a full-service flower shop that got its start in Petworth and recently moved its headquarters to Eckington. “He showed me the space originally with no context. He knew I’d see the infrastructure, the bones of the space, and fall in love.” 

She Loves Me occupies about a quarter of the first floor. “We compete for the best smelling space,” Simmons says. “Sometimes when they’re prepping food it wafts through the swinging doors.” Silverman adds: “And I want to stand in her space and smell it.” 

The flower shop, a real stunner with its pops of color and warm light, is open Wednesdays through Fridays from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and weekends from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Along with bouquets, customers can pick up small gifts.

Silverman and Simmons opine on the practical and visceral ways their passions overlap. “Working with a fresh material that has a shelf life, there’s some stress related to that,” Simmons says. She tries to source as many local flowers as possible because she says you can smell and see the difference. Plus, there’s less of a carbon footprint. “People assume I’m a florist so it’s all butterflies and rainbows. For the most part it is, but both industries can carry some stress.” 

Simmons says eating out or buying yourself flowers are small, indulgent ways to treat yourself or someone else. “Giving is better than receiving,” he says. “Giving people happiness, joy, and smiles—flowers are exactly that. It’s two very different products, but it’s the same business.”