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Quote Unquote: Hire This O‘ahu Floral Designer For Your Next Romantic Event

Shilhi Seibel started with a career in corporate events. But when she and her husband, a pastor, moved to Hawai‘i and became pregnant with their second of three children, the California native branched out by starting her floral design studio, Passion Roots. Now 10 years and a few celebrity weddings later, Seibel talks about stubborn buds, semitrucks and creating a blossoming effect in Hawai‘i.


Blooming business

Photos: Leah Friel


February may be one of the big months for retail florists, but for floral designers, the month marks the beginning of an upswing in destination wedding business. The number of people who fly in to say “I do” typically dips in December and January, but state tourism data shows happy couples start coming in more rapidly in February and peak in October. Waimānalo-based Passion Roots says the winter months are popular with out-of-state brides who don’t want to wilt in their wedding dresses. Cooler temperatures are also better for quick-to-close local flowers such as hibiscus. 


Shilhi Seibel

“It’s not flowers necessarily that are my passion. It’s creating beautiful experiences with people.”

My husband was transferred to Hawai‘i. He’s a local boy, got sent back home, which is great. I decided to say, “Hey, you know, I’ve been working 80 hours a week doing corporate. I want to try and do something different.”


I was the black sheep of the family at that point because my parents were in the medical field and business; they wanted me to be in that. But I wasn’t passionate about it.


[When my husband and I did our first wedding] we installed an arch and there were a million flights of stairs. Oh my word. It was just us two with a baby and a toddler, carrying these elephant bamboo pieces.


I was exhausted, I was crying and excited all at the same time.


[When I had a big wedding] I think I ordered literally 50,000 [flowers]. I mean crazy, crazy, 30 to 50 kinds of types. I saw a truck come in, semitruck too. … Then it moved to the left. I was like, what the heck? And then another truck came in and then the third one. I thought my legs were going to give out on me.


I had an amazing first birthday for somebody and [as] soon as I got the peonies, they opened, they were gorgeous—coral, as big as your hand. So then I had another wedding that summer, and I’m like, they are in season, great white, awesome. I had them, and they were like an inch. Tight and white. I spent all night following everything online, from blow-drying the peony to “put ants on it and [they’ll] eat the wax.” I think I blow dried these babies; they finally opened. 


Now anything new I haven’t worked with, I’ll just buy it and experiment with it before I offer it to a client.


I got my certification for life coaching for women. That’s my ministry. My husband is a pastor in the Kailua area and I just wanted something that I could give back …. designing things for home and florals but also helping people design their lives closer to God.


Seibel often reserves flowers still growing in fields in other countries ahead of big events. To find out more, go to passionroots.com.


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Honolulu Magazine July 2020
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