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Petal Pusher

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By Dana Thomas

`` Here are my babies, '' laments Jeff Leatham, the florist at the Four Seasons Hotel George V in Paris, standing in the heart of the largest flower market in the world, on the outskirts of Amsterdam, examining his latest order: four giants ferns, five squat ferns and several carts of cut flowers, he takes off his black leather jacket and grabs a few bouquets of Kelly green viburnum and fuchsia roses - `` to give him a little life '' - and presses them against the trees .'' Here is! "he declares, then steps back and examines the configuration." Wait until we get this bamboo, "he said, smiling proudly." Ooh la la! ''

`` Ooh la la! This is exactly what the leaders of George V and of Parisian high society say: in the few years that followed the takeover of the 74-year-old hotel by the Four Seasons hotel chain, just off the Champs -Élysées, and attracted Leatham from his Beverly Hills property to make flowers, this former model has become the city's most fashionable florist, he wows guests with his modern, uncompromising spiritual arrangements.'' most beautiful flowers I have ever seen seen, '' springs jazz diva Diana Krall, who stayed there while performing at the Olympia in December.

In January, Emanuel Ungaro hired him for his spring runway show at the Jeu de Paume, which Leatham filled with giant willow branches, fuchsia orchids, blood-red roses and flickering votive candles.And insightful model Naomi Campbell fainted.

What makes his flowers so attractive is his conviction that they are an artistic medium, he sculpts, builds and mixes, he plays with dimension and texture, he breaks up the plans and disturbs the symmetry, he infuses each display (he doesn't make bouquets) '') with clean lines, strong colors and lots of unspoken sex.

The result of this philosophy has enabled Leatham to become an international celebrity, with a promotional tour for his book of floral composition, `` The Flowers of Jeff Leatham '', which will be published in May at Editions Filipacchi (courses will be given at various Four Seasons hotels); a limited edition of floral scarves, on sale at George V; a line of hand-blown vases that bend at a 45-degree angle, so that everyone can do this "tippy thing"; and the strong possibility of a Jeff Leatham orchid ('' Violet-noir '', he confides).

The model became a corporate florist.The son of two Midwestern professors (his father had a green thumb), Leatham left Utah for Los Angeles, where he was discovered and duly dispatched to parade men's clothing In Paris one day, walking down rue Montorgueil, a street behind Les Halles, Leatham had a revelation, he was overwhelmed by a large display of tulips, lilies and roses, and suddenly: `` My eye was born, I started to see colors and shapes.''

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