Other florists put up party tents. Dale Rohman surrounds the poles with silk-covered cylinders so they look like Greek columns. Other florists spread a tarp or unroll white plastic; Rohman lays down paving stones, plants thyme between the cracks and crushes it for fragrance. He's done the flowers for the queens and maids of St. Louis' Old World Veiled Prophet Ball since 1968, but he'll work on a budget tighter than a baby rosebud, and he brings clients along to St. Louis Carnival Supply to help pick out the kitsch. Rohman loves every step of his work, from stripping thorns to spray-painting clay pots, and he sees possibilities everywhere. One morning after a fierce spring storm, he was driving out to Neiman Marcus to create a bridal show and saw a neighbor's broken magnolia branch lying on the ground. Five minutes later, he'd traded a pail of flowers for the branch, his display's new centerpiece. At a wedding reception, he sneaked outside while the guests danced and hung chandeliers of votive candles in the canopied walkway so that they could depart in candlelight. Back at Neiman for a live demonstration of dining-room centerpieces, he filled a gold-brushed glass urn with deep-blue delphinium and champagne roses, arranging each stem just so, and scattering rose petals around the base. The crowd was already starting to applaud as he stepped back and then, eyes twinkling, stuck in one of the depetalled stems. It drooped languidly, as though it had just shed its petals, and made a living definition of wabi
, Japanese for "the flawed detail that creates an elegant whole."