The Secret Sauce Bringing Glam Vibe to Palm Royale

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By Jill Brooke

Photo: Palm Royale, Apple TV

In “Palm Royale,” Apple TV’s hit series, flowers not only help, but fluff up the storyline of world class social climbing .

It’s Palm Beach circa 1969. Maxine Delacourte, an ambitious wife played hilariously by Kristen Whig, is trying to ascend the social ladder. Naturally there are established doyennes who delight in trying to create barricades for her entry into their country club, Palm Royale. Delacourte’s madcap attempts to prevail may be the plot line, but it also allows us, the viewer, a peek at luxury on the highest level.

These people know how to party and live well. Fashion is glamourous. Lilly Pulitzer’s bold floral prints are popping up for daytime and evening attire includes sparkling gowns. Entertaining is big, expensive and over the top.

Florist Ines Garstecki, the owner of L.A’s  Flowermaid, was tasked with making sure that all the sets – the country clubs, the homes, the themed parties – were not only authentic but fabulous.

Oh and what a great job she did. Which is why clients like Jessica Alba, Kate Hudson, Michael Keaton, Heidi Klum, etc. clamor for her taste. Included in her repertoire is TV work that includes Hacks (HBO) and Westworld (HBO).

Of course when you have a plot line like “Palm Royale,”  it is a florist’s dream.

Photo: Ines Garstecki

“Budget was never an issue and we often got to splurge on the most expensive flowers such as yellow Bartzella Itoh peonies (used for the charity and auction ball in Episode 1 and 2),” says Garstecki, who along with her team including lead designer Matthew Stovall found extraordinary blooms. “We used seasonal varieties like calla lilies, Belladonna delphiniums, dahlias, cosmos and Rudebeckia (perfect for 70s colors).” Other additions included agapanthus, zinnias, and Echinacea centers (for their orangey brown 70s color).  Most arrangements featured the most used foliage of the time – which was leather leaves, plumosa, tree fern and lemon leaves.”

As far as style, Garstecki  had a goal of not making the bouquets too dense. “Arrangements at the end of the sixties were very airy,” she explains. “But also very structured with a lot of A-line shapes.” Not only did she do massive research, but also replicated some of the arrangements found in period books, including “The Gracious Art of Flower Arrangements” by Susan Pulbrook/Rosa Gould. This also impacted her flower choices as well as design.

Photo: Reference from 1969, “The Gracious Art of Flower Arrangements.” Replica for Palm Royale

After all, during the 60’s, there wasn’t next-day air travel where florists could get tulips from Holland toute suite or butterfly anemones from Japan. More hardy flowers such as “gladiolas, carnations, statice, anthurium, marguerite daisies, gerbera daisies and mums” were used since they could survive the slower transportation times. In Florida, though, one could get tropicals such as mokara orchids, bird of paradise, Heliconias, and James Storie orchids.

Since film sets can be very hot – not the best temperature for flowers – and directors shoot the same scene many times, often florists will rely on faux flowers. This becomes an inexpensive alternative and solution.

“For the production designer Jon Carlos and set decorator Ellen Reede,  it was very important to see real flowers on set, and they didn’t shy away from the extra expense, considering how many times we had to refresh some arrangements over and over again,” she says gratefully. “Real flowers just give the sets a more realistic touch. A lot of the scenes (of Carol Burnett) in Norma’s mansion were shot in a sound stage at Paramount, while the viewer had to believe the characters were in a real mansion, with natural light. So whatever real elements you can add to the sets enhances the ‘real’ look and visual quality of the show.”

Left image: Ellen Reede, Right, Apple TV

What color flowers to use was carefully crafted to each character.  “The décor that Ellen Reede created in Norma’s mansion, the oldest of the grand dames of Palm Beach, had an old world timeless, but slightly antiquated splendor to it and featured rich jewel tone colors,” she explains. “So we did the flowers for Norma’s parlor, where many scenes took place, in rich reds, burgundies, cinnamon, yellows and golds, using burgundy peonies, tobacco roses, teddy bear sunflowers, gerbera daisies, etc.”

Photo: Ines Garstecki, Apple TV

Norma’s bar and smoking room, that had many scenes with Ricky Martin along with Laura Dern and Whig, featured antique pink tones in the furniture, contrary to the usually masculine colors of such rooms, since they were designed for a lady. Flowers chosen were always pale pink, “sometimes with a touch of lavender.”

Contrary to Norma’s house, the home of Dinah Donahue, played by Leslie Bibb, was more ‘modern’ for the time, in a neo-classic style. It had  less color in the décor – with mostly white, black, and powder blue shades. “Flowers here were always white and airy, sometimes with stark and clean lines,” says Garstecki . “We did arrangements with just Casablanca lilies or chinoiserie vases with plumosa and white agapanthus.”

The home of the grand dame Evelyn Rollins, played superbly by Allison Janney, featured pastels (in the bathroom) and typical sunset tones in other rooms. In general, Reede had more chintz displayed here – very typical for the time – and plenty of taxidermized birds! To accommodate Reede’s design, Garstecki got flowers with golden hues ranging from peach to burnt orange with touches of brown. Here she used “different Rudbeckia/brown-eyed Susan varieties mixed with mini pomegranate fruits, Kahala rose, and brown lisianthus.”

Palm Royale Flowers
Photo: Ines Garstecki, Auction scene with flowers for Dinah
Photo: Auction flowers for Mary

Garstecki said the most fun scene to create was The Auction Ball scene in Episode 2. An underlying theme is what Maxine Delacourt will do for the big Beach Ball referenced often in the series.

For this scene, she created eight different over the top arrangements to embellish or visualize auction items. “We had a trip to Paris, a trip to Egypt, a trip to Rhodesia (Evelyn’s Table), a trip to a botanical garden (Dinah’s Table), a trip to witness the launch of the Apollo  (Mary’s table), a sailing trip, and an oversized gift basket 60’s style,” recalls Garstecki. “Unfortunately, you only get to see three of them on screen.”

Flowers for Palm Royale
Photo: Auction florals that didn’t make final cut for Palm Royale

But no matter. She had a ball creating all these beautiful sets and is awaiting the green light for Season 2. As are fans who adore the vibe of the show. In fact, just like “Bridgerton” sparked a demand for Regency design, many think Palm Royale will do the same for this classic glam genre.

Quest Design Editor Jayne Chase credits the show for not only helping to put the public’s Lilly Pulitzer dresses in perspective, but bringing back more “formality” which is a good thing,” she says. “We have flowers and design working hand in hand. Chintz is becoming super popular again and lots of fabric houses are going back into their archives and bringing back old fabrics and patterns in decor,.” Adds Laurette Kittle, founder of resort wear brand Walker and Wade, “The younger generation is also responding to this retro trend. And why not? It’s beautiful and fun.”

Now people are waiting to see if the party will continue for another season. We sure hope so.

Ines Grastecki and her team

Jill Brooke is a former CNN correspondent, Post columnist and editor-in-chief of Avenue and Travel Savvy magazine. She is an author and the editorial director of FPD and a contributor to Florists Review magazine. She also won the 2023 AIFD (American Institute of Floral Design.) Merit Award for showing how flowers impact history, news and culture