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Flower.Style35: Guided by the Dutch Master Philosophy, "Full Bloom" Judge Elizabeth Cronin's Perfect Bouquet Is More a Feeling Than a Style

Chicago-based designer and HBO Max's (self-proclaimed "least judgy") judge on "Full Bloom," Elizabeth Cronin, pays homage to the natural world with her whimsically organic compositions. After being introduced to the world of floristry in her early 20s, she founded Asrai Garden in 1999, a retail outpost known for one-of-a-kind flower arrangements, fine jewelry, and other thoughtfully-curated curiosities. Today, the store—which features two locations in the heart of Chicago—offers visitors a unique shopping experience with captivating scents, thoughtful vibes, and of course, dazzling florals. Using native blooms and still life paintings of the Dutch Golden Age as guides, Elizabeth's design style is an amalgamation of old world, the very Victorian, and nature's untamed beauty.

1. What is your idea of the perfect flower arrangement? That depends on the day. Sometimes it is the perfect composition of one single bloom variety, sometimes it is about the palette, and oftentimes it is the point where I have all the greens and "fillers" (as people so rudely and wrongly call them) in place and just decide to stop there because blooms would only ruin its perfection. My idea of perfection happens mostly when the bouquet looks like the sound "pthhhhhhh."

2. How did you get started in the floral industry? When I was 21, I was hired at this flower shop I rode past every day on my bus ride to a job I did not like. I was obsessed with the window filled with flowers; it was my favorite part of the day. Within a year, I was managing the shop's two store locations.

3. If not a florist, what would be your fallback profession? LOL, huh? I mean, does someone want to pay me to just travel and eat?

4. What's your present state of mind? Well, I just returned from meeting some sloths in Costa Rica, so I am feeling pretty great!

5. Are you a Type A or B personality? Example? Yes and both! I work a ton, always have and likely always will—BUT I am not competitive and when I am relaxing or taking a day off, I am RELAXING.

6. What is your most treasured possession? Too many treasures to choose from; I am a Taurus who needs to be surrounded by beautiful objects.

7. Which words or phrases do you most overuse? Literally, OMG and !!!!! (I have been clocked so many times for my use of exclamation points; I will use like six to eight in one email, but then again, I am excitable like a puppy.)

8. Where do you find inspiration outside the flower world? I find inspiration everywhere: nature, fashion, architecture, music—it's limitless.

9. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? I would like to be a better listener. I am so excitable and always too eager to "relate," and that can make for a less than ideal listener sometimes.

10. What do you consider your greatest achievement? I think Asrai Garden is that. It changed the format of floral shops and blended things that always belonged together, but had never been given the opportunity in retail before. As the brand grew, we also built a beautiful community around us.

11. What event or job has been your favorite? Honestly, filming and being a judge on Full Bloom has been my most favorite ever. Building relationships with the florists and crew, and being with Maurice Harris and Simon Lycett all day is just better than anything else. We make each other laugh ALL DAY LONG.

12. Any projects that you wish you could forget? Yeah, but let's not talk about those now.

13. What is your most marked characteristic? Probably how welcoming and open I am.

14. Who is your floral hero? I don't have one, really. Though I am LOVING the floral work coming out of South Korea right now.

15. What is your favorite flower? What day is it?

16. What flower could you live without? Liatris. (Although that will be the name of Maurice's first-born child; he lost a bet to me on-set one day…)

17. What would you call your style of design? I don't have a name for it—it's more of a feeling.

18. What is your favorite tool for working with flowers? My hands, actually.

19. Who's on your playlist? Pretty much every playlist has some disco, some Chicago house music, Frank Ocean and Fleetwood Mac.

20. What's on your to-do list? Too much, but mostly getting my taxes in order for my accountant.

21. Who is your favorite artist? I have fallen in love with the visual artist Chidinma Nnoli the past few years. Her work is incredible.

22. What's the last book you read (and loved)? Funny story. I had been reading a lot of books with heavy subject matter—like abolition, critical race theory, sad stories about LGBTQ history, etc.—and THEN my mom passed me the first book in the Bridgerton series…I read the next four of them while in Costa Rica. It takes about two days to breeze through each book, and I try to hide the cover the entire time so no one sees me. UGH, it’s too embarrassing, but I needed a brain break.

23. Any pets? Yes! My perfect pup, Roberta, and her cat brothers, Kevin and Grapefruit. It's actually the least amount of pets I have ever had; I am trying not to hoard them these days. My partner Bianca helps because she will literally move out if I bring home more animals.

24. Are you prone to routine or more spontaneous? I am a combination of the two. But, if the routine involves staying home, I excel at that one. I am such an extroverted introvert. Nobody believes it, but as outgoing as I seem, I am really shy and like being at home.

25. How do you unwind after a long day? These days it's taking a bath and watching RuPaul's Drag Race.

26. Favorite beverage? Michelada!

27. What's your flower motto? "Do not overwork it; let the damn thing do it’s damn thing."

28. What's your motto in life? "I love that for you." (Because I seriously root for others and find joy in their joys and successes.)

29. How would your friends describe you? They would probably say I am someone who really shows up for people. I mean, I LOVE to cancel plans, but emotionally—and when it counts—I show up and am known for my generosity.

30. What would surprise us most about you? I think the shy/introverted thing.

31. What's your best advice to someone just starting out in the flower industry? Work at a busy shop, learn what you are doing before you just decide "I am a florist now," and start a floral business. You need to learn so much about processing and care before you begin designing. Thanks to Instagram, everyone thinks they are a florist these days. I have met "florists" who have never worked a day in a floral shop before opening their own—it kind of blows my mind. I mean, I am all about hands-on learning and teaching yourself, but it feels like working in an established and busy bouquet shop (or even a grocery store floral department) might be a good idea.


To stay connected with Elizabeth and view more of her work, click on the links below.

Elizabeth Cronin Instagram | Asrai Garden Website | Asrai Garden Instagram | Asrai Garden Facebook