Some people go to school for floristry and/or farming. Not me! I took a pretty indirect path to becoming a farmer-florist.
I’m normally a self-motivated learner. Give me some youtube videos and a couple of good books on a subject, and I can DIY almost anything! This works really well for projects that only require a basic level of skill. But when I want to actually hone my skill at something, there’s no substitute for learning from an experienced mentor.
Continuing education is incredibly important to me. Going back to school isn’t in the cards, so I invest in smaller pieces of education instead: online classes, lectures and conferences, visits to other people’s farms, and workshops like this one hosted by The Flower Hat.
The Flower Hat is a flower farm and floral studio in beautiful Bozeman, MT, run by the amazingly wonderful Julio. In addition to being a badass florist, Julio grows a full acre of his own flowers, too! This workshop was about both design and growing–perfect for me.
Side note: I did take some GORGEOUS hikes while in Montana, and I did work very hard to restrain myself from filling this blog post with hiking pictures! Here’s just a couple, to set the mood:
Now. Back to flowers!
Julio’s workshop was three days long and it was jam-packed with information, both about growing flowers and designing with them. We had most of our class time outside in the garden due to covid-19. But it didn’t bring us down!
Julio was an amazing teacher, he was 100% genuine with us about how he runs his farm and his floral design business. He’s a truly lovely soul. I’ve also never met anybody who loves Mariah Carey so much!
Over the course of the workshop, we each made a bouquet and a centerpiece, aided and critiqued by Julio. We also made a flower-tastic arch & aisle installation as a group.
Our work was photographed professionally by Orange Photographie. I definitely jumped up and down with excitement when I saw these beautiful photos!
Being at The Flower Hat was great fun and I learned a TON from Julio. I have a literal binder of flower growing and design information from this workshop!
There isn’t the space to share all of that here, so I want to share with you my top 3 design takeaways from the workshop.
1. The first thing you add is the last thing you see
Throughout the workshop we talked about layering. This is a common concept in floral design, but I really liked the way Julio explained it: the first thing that you add to a floral design is the least noticeable element in the final arrangement.
This makes a lot of sense! As you build up an arrangement, adding more and more flowers, the first layer you constructed gets hidden.
So, start designs off with a “base layer” of greens, which create shape and structure, then fade into the background. Save the special, detailed, wispy, floaty bits for last, so they can dance and sparkle above the rest of the arrangement and be seen!
2. Create groupings of flowers for a more natural look
In nature, nothing grows in nice, straight, homogenous rows. Nothing grows perfectly patterned, either. In nature plants tend to grow in little groupings where a mature plant sends up runners, or where a helpful bird drops some seeds.
To make an arrangement look more natural, we can group flowers together. Rather than spread a certain type of flower out evenly over the arrangement, like polka dots, we can gather those stems together in small clusters to mimic nature. A grouping of yellow roses here, a cluster of silver eryngium there, a little yarrow moment over there, etc.
Julio is a master of the natural-looking groupings! I love watching him create a centerpiece and bouquet demonstrating how he approaches layering and groupings.
3. There’s more than one way to bake a pie
This is one of the reasons I love learning from other floral designers: everybody does things differently!
I have a favorite way of making a hand-tied bouquet, but Julio offered a few techniques that were different from my go-to method. I wanted to try his method, which involves making a tiny chicken wire structure that gets hidden inside the bouquet and helps to give it shape.
I ended up not liking this technique that much, but I can imagine it being very useful for a certain type of bouquet. I am glad that I learned it! In my opinion, the more tools you have in your toolbox, the more likely you are to have the right tool for every job.
I also thought about this concept when we were building the arch installation.
Foam-free floral design (where we avoid using Oasis floral foam, which is pretty awful for the environment) is a very open playing field. Without foam to create a wet place to stick flower stems, it is up to you to figure out how to keep your stems hydrated and attached to their structure.
Chicken wire is the most common answer to this, since it’s easy to find and bend into any form. But any number of things could be used to create a form for a floral installation: woven branches and vines, tomato trellises, ladders, chain link fence, etc.
For the hydration piece, we concealed some water sources in the installation. These weren’t fancy made-for-wedding-arches items, they were just creatively repurposed household items! We used dog bowls to hold water for the aisle flower pieces. In an installation I made after the workshop, I used solo cups!
There’s no one-size-fits-all solution for these things, which is freeing and exciting.
The other ladies (all ladies) who attended the workshop were just wonderful, lovely, creative, and talented people, and I’m so glad to have met them. If you need more flower content in your life, I highly recommend checking some of them out! Here are some of my workshop-mates:
I feel so lucky and privileged to have attended this workshop, especially during a year like 2020. I’m taking a lot of great lessons learned from Julio into 2021 and beyond. Thanks, Julio!!!! <3
Samantha is the head farmer and florist at Sea Change Farm & Flower.
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