‘Face the Foliage’: Designer Justina Blakeney on Making Portraits With Plants

There is one hashtag that’s singing our heartsong these days, and that hashtag is #FacetheFoliage. Imagined by designer, author and creative-force-of-nature Justina Blakeney, #FacetheFoliage is an open invitation to build whimsical portraits out of leaves, stems, twigs, fruits and flowers — and to join the legions who are posting their own blooming works on Instagram.

Talk about plants with personality!


Justina Blakeney: designer, blogger, ‘Face the Foliage’ creator. (Who also makes us wonder how she does it all with just 24 hours in a day.) Photo by Jennifer Young.

Face the Foliage by Justina Blakeney

One and all are invited to take part in #FacetheFoliage. Above, one of Justina’s creations, captioned on her Instagram feed with whimsy: “She wasn’t thrilled that the party’s theme was purple. Purple was not her color.”

“I was raking dead leaves in my yard one morning when all of the sudden, after staring at the leaves for several minutes, one of them smiled at me,” Justina tells us by email. “It really looked liked lips. So I grabbed a few of them off the floor and arranged them on my patio table until I had created an entire face from leaves. The face looked very expressive. She looked a bit melancholy, but if I titled her eyebrows one way, or switched the leaf I was using for lips, the expression completely changed.”

Justina’s Instagram feed is brimming with inspiration: Tillandsia becomes a punky hairdo. A lady blushes in bougainvillea. Stems curve into cheeks, chins and noses. Red lentils become the famous Titian locks of editor Grace Coddington. (The latter was created by Justina for her recent collaboration with high-octane fashion retailer Moda Operandi — as featured on Vogue.com.) Even Justina’s captions are wonderful. “She was SO shy at the office that the entire staff was flabbergasted when these photos from her at #Burningman surfaced!” notes an artful nude.

Below, check out some more examples by Justina: 


For her collaboration with Moda Operandi, Justina created plant portraits of fashion icons like Grace Coddington, Twiggy (of course!) and Diana Vreeland. Above, the unparalleled Grace Jones rocks a fern ‘do while wearing jewelry sold by the presale powerhouse.

Face the Foliage by Justina Blakeney

“Somehow he came out looking like a genie version of Benicio del Toro.”

Face the Foliage by Justina Blakeney

Tilt a petal, and an expression goes from blissful to melancholy, pensive to pissed.

Face the Foliage by Justina Blakeney

“She was born in the wrong decade.”

Face the Foliage by Justina Blakeney

“She was always a dreamer.”

Face the Foliage by Justina Blakeney

“In her 20s she learned to talk, and in her 30s she learned to listen.”

Face the Foliage by Justina Blakeney

At this garden party, a clover goes black-tie.

Face the Foliage by Justina Blakeney

Another shot from the Moda Operandi collaboration: this one of Grace Coddington with red lentil hair.

“It’s a very fun exercise, it calms me and is fun to do with kids as well,” Justina says. “After sharing the photos on Instagram and starting the hashtag #FacetheFoliage, people from all over the world have joined in and begun to share in the fun making zero-waste foliage portraits!”

Speaking of instant serenity — after work this week, Ryan and I made our own #FacetheFoliage hort-trait using plants from our yard: maidenhair fern tresses, fuchsia flower eyes, thistle earrings, succulent necklace. It was pure therapy.

Face the Foliage

Then it was our turn. For our hort-trait, we created a lady with maidenhair fern locks, fuchsia eyes, thistle earrings, and a Crassula multicava necklace. The iridescent stripes on our inch plant made for perfect lips.



We generally just adore everything that Justina does. That includes her blog (e.g. DIY midcentury-inspired bookends and dispatches from the L.A. “jungalow” she shares with her family) and her products (the geometric hanging planter in collabo with MFEO, her plant-covered nail wraps for Museum Nails…). And then there’s the Creative Residency, recently launched by Justina and graphic designer and photographer Dabito, a series of seminars designed to support and empower creative professionals.

“We felt that there was a need for challenging creative seminars that focused on relationship building,” Justina says of the program’s genesis. “We feel that collaboration is at the heart of creative success. We are teaching several seminars in the next few months; there is a lot of excitement around the Intro to Getting a Book Deal class as well as the Social Media Colloquium.”

Ryan and I hope to make it to one of these workshops soon. There’s a lot to be said about meeting face to face.


#facethefoliage on Instagram. Do you see yours?