This morning I woke up to the tinny strings of “Here comes the bride,” echoing in my head as I tried to shake off a nightmare of sorts. Picture a crowd of designers, myself included, wrestling over the design of a bride’s bouquet. Not just a bride’s bouquet, THE bride’s bouquet. We weren’t fighting, however, we were just adding…and adding and adding and adding. A little bloom here, wrapped with a little vine there, accents of ornamental grass, dangling bits, spikes a plenty, arcs of ribbon – it just kept getting bigger and bigger. At the moment I woke I counted 3 pairs of hands holding it. This year we’re taking on more events than ever, so naturally this is a situation we wish to avoid.

Special events and weddings are the fastest growing part of our business. We have already exceeded our budgeted event income set in January. We are busy making sure all will be in place so we can meet each bride’s expectations. Planning early in the season helps us to organize every aspect of each event, create schedules and build in redundancy to our operation, should/when Mother Nature lets us know she’s still boss, essentially schedule in time for when things go wrong. Right now everything looks good on paper, but I recognize delivering premium designs to our brides AND meet our market customers’ expectations will take collaborative effort from a team of people, not just me.

In the past we’ve worked on a contract basis with talented designers, hired here and there throughout the season for specific events. This year we recognized the need for a consistent part-time event manager and designer on staff. One of my former employees has retired from her previous employment, much to our delight, and is eager to come on board. Highly skilled in management and experienced as a very small scale grower, her main concern was gaining confidence with the design process itself. So we built in-house design instruction into our plans as a regular event.

Just conceptualizing about how floral design education might work on our farm made me aware of how much I would benefit from it, too. With a degree in architecture I have a strong foundation in the principles of design, but the application of my experience toward floral design isn’t always easy. I still wrestle with the best way to make boutonnieres and corsages, the most efficient process for making centerpieces, the appropriate techniques for stabilizing/constructing large-scale pieces. I knew we’d all benefit from expert advice and I knew the perfect person to ask.

Last year Carol Caggiano, AIFD, PFCI gave an incredible design daylong presentation at the ASCFG National Conference. Carol is an internationally recognized floral designer and educator and is an valuable asset to the floral industry worldwide. Her expertise in floral design education specifically prompted me to call her last fall when I had been asked to give a design demonstration utilizing original art pieces at the Washington Craft Show in downtown DC. Together, we collaborated on how I might structure such a demo, and in between we dashed to the studio as she showed me some simple tricks and techniques for making pomander balls and perfecting spiral hand-tied bouquets. I could have kept her there all day, firing question after question.

When I explained our plans for on-site floral design education, she agreed that it was an excellent idea stressing “On-the-job is one of the most valuable sources of education in the industry.” Unfortunately for us, she’s not available to teach here until fall. We realize that not every grower/designer has such a resource living “down the street” and even if you do, it takes time and planning to coordinate an effective program. So, if not Carol, then who? I asked Carol for her recommendations and she admitted it was a difficult question to answer as “everyone’s needs and expectations are so different.” Here are her recommendations and comments for some of the best programs in the industry:

Online: Classes offered through the American Institute of Floral Designers www.AIFD.org

Locally: Check to see if your state offers floral design education courses. Carol cited strong programs available Michigan, Ohio and Texas.

Nationally:
• Phil Rulloda, Southern California School of Floral Design, Anaheim, (714) 776-7445, www.philrulloda.com
• Leanne Kessler, Floral Design Institute, Portland, Oregon, (800) 819-8089, www.flowerschool.com
• Jim Johnson, Benz School of Floral Design, College Station, TX, (979) 845-0627, aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/benz

Internationally:
• Isabel Palmer, The Green Academy, Drongen, Belgium, 32-473818298, www.greenacademybelgium.com “Pretty fabulous but definitely for serious designers.”
• “Paula Pryke and Jane Packer are two English designers who are well known here in the States, and I would think their programs would be well suited to the specialty cut flower grower.”

Carol mentioned that Germany and Holland can get very intricate and intense in their floral design, so she would recommend them only to the most serious and committed floral artist.

Realizing it’s a little late to jet off to Belgium, instead, we’re busy building our library of design books, adding to our own portfolio and creating our own books by photographing what we create during our design classes. We also plan to take advantage of several design education opportunities offered through our local wholesaler and OF COURSE attending the Lilytopia professional symposium and our upcoming Mid-Atlantic Regional Meeting! Hope to see you all there!

Andrea Gagnon

LynnVale Studios [email protected]