A love for nature and the wonder of flowers have always played a role in my life. I grew up in a family that took time to explore natural wonders. My dad earned a masters degree in geology, so we were frequent visitors to national parks. My mom loved honing her botanical photography skills on family vacations. I can remember exploring caves on my birthday as a child. My previous career (teaching) lent itself to gardening. I really started growing and tinkering with flowers during those high summer months off from work.
When the event industry collapsed in our mountain town and the tourists and parties disappeared, we turned to the local communities that had been missing out on our own-grown flowers and arrangements. Previously, the event work had taken all of our time and energy. We started helping our neighbours enjoy flowers in their homes. We made local home deliveries and offered no-contact pick up options. We reached out to local independent grocers and health food stores and started selling our local flower bouquets through them, as well. Increasing prices on potting mediums and compost convinced us to start producing our own growing mediums here at our flower farm. So we learned how to incorporate a residential food waste collection service into our weekly flower delivery programs.
I’m inspired by the people and plants that I interact with every day. Of course, the flowers are beautiful. But the people who seek out our designs and the people who inquire about positions here on our farm and design teams are some of the most intrinsically optimistic and beautiful people I’ve ever known. The change of the seasons, the challenges of designing for diverse and interesting clients, my commitment to providing a healthy place to work and to being a reliable leader, all keep me invested in my work.
As someone who changed careers (I used to be a teacher and independent school administrator), I appreciate that owning my own business allows me freedom to set goals with my team and the responsibility to see them carried out. I don’t take for granted for one moment that my staff depend on me to steer our ship and grow their opportunities too. Earning big event contracts, being recognised for speaking my mind on issues of sustainability, and being asked to serve as a Founding Ambassador to this network have all been wonderful career highlights. But I’m most proud of the steps we’ve taken to bring local flowers and sustainable design work to a region that had previously relied solely on conventional flowers and lots of unsustainable design mechanics.
I’m very happy that I’ve been able to do that while providing good wages and flexible hours to the people who work here. I am always working to learn an appropriate balance between work and home life. The last season was packed with postponed events from the previous season. It was crazy busy and exhausting. The biggest misconception amongst people outside the industry is that we just have this beautiful, easy, stress-free job. There is beauty, but it is definitely tempered by hard work. Preparing perishable products for once-in-a-lifetime events can be very nerve wracking.
When I first started talking about sustainability in floral work through my website’s blog, I was disheartened to see a loss of engagement. Some people who had been interested in my flowers and work didn’t want to hear why my heart was guiding our choices to avoid floral foam, to refuse dyed, painted, and bleached flowers, to use only vessels from our rental collection instead of single-use vases ordered in for every event, etc. But the tide has turned. Now I’m seeing more and more appreciation and excitement (generally) for developments in sustainability as they relate to our work here
That so much power (for good or bad) lies in the hands of those with the largest audiences. We see prominent florists who go on using floral foam without addressing the product’s “afterlife”. We see others adopting no-foam mechanics, but fill them with chemically altered plants. There is a long way to go, and I hope that the growth of this platform and the attention the world is turning toward protecting our planet will lead to a greater focus on local, sustainable, healthy floristry.
My favorite designers to hire often have little experience with flowers, but a wonder and appreciation for them and a very good understanding of the elements of art and principles of design. I think that echoes my entry into designing. I was an artist and art teacher first. I love conceptual art. I love playing with a material and seeing how far we can stretch it structurally. Not surprisingly, I seem to gravitate towards hiring people who have had some experience with sculpture. Some went to art school. Some are self-taught artists and have their own ceramics or jewellery design businesses, for example. Everyone who comes to work here needs to be willing to help me bring the plan I’ve made with the client to fruition.
I love to create time and space for experimentation. I think that is integral to finding and appreciating other designer’s talents and creativity. But we don’t experiment on someone’s wedding day! I look forward to being able to share the Sustainable Floristry Network programming with new employees and to seeing prospective designers come to us with sustainable floristry experience. I most respect invention/creativity in other florists. It’s exciting to see new developments
Sustainability in our business practice means so many things. We are committed to using local, organically grown flowers – very local – as in right outside our studio door from our own flower farm. We’re committed to applying organic growing practices on the farm and hiring experienced organic farmers and naturalists. We examine our practice and ask ourselves “how can we do this more sustainably?” In the studio we reduce our carbon footprint and the waste our events make by requiring that our designs be made with vessels from our rental collection, by implementing reusable design mechanics, and by returning to collect all of the spent plant material and mechanics from event venues. The plant material is composted and helps to feed our soil and the following season’s flowers. The mechanics are sorted out and returned to the studio. This production model was especially helpful this past year, when we saw the global flower supply chain upended and our industry met with shortages for everything from water tubes to vases.
My top five favourite tools are chicken wire, chicken wire, chicken wire, chicken wire, and chicken wire. Ha! You get the point. I love how sculptural and reusable this material is. It forms the base structure of nearly every centrepiece, large bowl or urn arrangement we make (unless we’re using flower frogs). Chicken wire is also the armature under our arbour designs and larger installations. We use it to fabricate foam-free flower wall structures and hanging chandeliers too. We’re intrigued by some of the new “sustainable” design products entering the marketplace, but we’re investigating them cautiously. We want to make sure our choices do a lot more good than harm.
Other important tools are tin snips (they glide through chicken wire), rustic wire (reusable heavy weight wire wrapped to look like a vine), twine, and water tubes. I also love to seek out flowers and plants that make installation work easier. Plants like explosion grass, baby’s breath, and moss make hiding our floral mechanics a breeze and they all do well out of water. They are some of the best “tools” of all!