The Petal Pusher

Passionflower’s founder designs fantasy blooms that will take your breath away

Above: Florist Susan McLeary of Passionflower. Below: McLeary’s wearable floral designs include jewelry and headpieces. Courtesy of Passionflower. Photographs By Erin Schmidt

PASSIONFLOWER FOUNDER Susan McLeary has proven that being a wallflower isn’t so bad after all. With her unique designs, the Ann Arbor-based florist has found new ways to push petals within her fantasy floral designs.

Although the once shy McLeary always felt she was imaginative and creative, she never knew quite how to express it. “I’d always been artistic, but I never really found my medium,” she says. “I never gave myself a chance to explore art as a career, it just kind of happened to me.”

She began dabbling with jewelry making as a hobby. Then a friend asked McLeary to do her wedding flowers. There was an immediate connection from the moment McLeary started working with flowers. “I was like, ‘I’m supposed to be a florist — this is what I’m supposed to be doing.’ That’s how it happened.”

Helping friends with their floral arrangements inspired McLeary’s artistry, and after years of hard work, determination, and perfecting her craft, she opened Passionflower in 2010 and never looked back.

Since then, McLeary has turned Passionflower into a powerhouse for petals through weddings, teaching, and commerce via Etsy. The most eye-catching of the Passionflower designs are McLeary’s fantasy wearables — floral jewelry, gowns and headpieces.

“I’ve always loved fashion and accessory designs,” McLeary says. “The wearable pieces are mostly for editorial work and my own enjoyment. It’s kind of a passion project of mine, but brides are starting to order smaller versions of the pieces on my website.”

Whether creating wearable pieces or more traditional florals, McLeary goes above and beyond for her clients. Meki Bracken of Detroit, who wed her husband, Ian, at the Detroit Institute of Arts in August 2016, says McLeary made her wedding one of a kind through her unique ability to bring her ideas to fruition.

“One of the things that we expressed to Susan was that I was going to have an outdoor wedding, and for a number of reasons we ended up indoors,” Bracken says. “I wanted to bring an element of the outside to the inside. She did a great job in doing that by bringing flowers into every aspect of our wedding.” McLeary was so determined to give Bracken her dream wedding that she created a tree for the couple to stand in front of during the ceremony.

Through all of her work, McLeary says her goal is to take people’s breath away.

“My favorite flower is the Passion Flower,” McLeary says. “That was the first flower that made me stop in my tracks, and I was fascinated because the bloom is so unusual. I try to keep that in my mind when I’m designing. I want people to stop and notice. I don’t want to put out designs that are bland. I want them to be unusual and a little out-of-the-box to make people really feel something.”

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