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Tracy Boychuk: Tips for Artful & Sustainable Floral Design

Tracy Boychuk is turning sustainability into an art form, one Chicago rooftop at a time. As founder and creative director of The Roof Crop, Boychuk oversees its 13 rooftop gardens, an apiary and shop, and projects for clients across the city. Tracy does it all with an eye for design, whether she’s using a dynamic Lingbi stone  — discovered at PAGODA RED — as the centerpiece of a garden or arranging local peonies in a rare antique teapot.

The Roof Crop installed its original garden in 2015, as a joint venture with another firm. Tracy explains, “As it was a meadow system, there were a large variety of native plants and food as the initial seeding and we planted more food and flower crops, as well.” Since then, the Roof Crop developed as its own firm with a consistent mission — to “produce edible produce, edible flowers, cut flowers and natural dye materials.”

Tracy’s commitment to zero-waste gardening is truly remarkable. Excess from the Roof Crop’s yield is turned around and used to craft herbal teas, handmade soaps, and bath products. Chicago restauranteurs are lucky to have such a resource — she works closely with local chefs to source the freshest product.

Green roof at the Viridian on Sheridan created by the Roof Crop.

The Roof Crop is also playing an important role to restore the declining bee population. From cultivating and managing over 40 active beehives to selling honey that funds educational grants, their holistic approach to sustainable gardening is inspiring.

A client garden by The Roof Crop, featuring a Lingbi stone from PAGODA RED. Photo by Jon Ford.

Tracy recently visited PAGODA RED to chat with us about floral arranging, using several one-of-a-kind collectible vessels in her demonstration. The vessels span time, yet each one works well with the lush peonies. “The vessels inspired peonies as that is their theme. I’m usually not that literal, but peonies look good in everything! They are amazing.”

First, Tracy paired the peonies with a contemporary Blue and White Double Happiness Jar. Tracy advises that the “… scale of vessel to blooms is important. Most people put too few blooms in a vase that is too big for them. When in doubt pick a smaller scale vessel and more blooms than you think will fit.”

The peonies have an entirely different effect in a 120-year-old Green Glazed Salt Jar. “I reacted to the color of the vessels to arrange and edit but this was an easy one — gorgeous vessel and gorgeous product.”

The dynamic “Portal Vase” by Viktor Van Bramer changes the effect of the peonies yet again. Here, Van Bramer’s abstract brush strokes — painted onto glass — create a chic juxtaposition with the billowy flowers.

For those of us who are true novices, Tracy says, “If you aren’t feeling the knack, stick to one bloom — bunch of peonies, bunch of sunflowers — and keep it clean and simple.”  Add a bit of creativity by choosing an unexpected container, like she did with this century-old teapot. “Ultimately,” says Tracy, “. . . design with blooms that you love. Every dahlia we grow makes me smile.”

Sustainable flowers in artful, timeless vessels — a beautiful design choice across continents, both now and certainly well into the future.


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