Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A Word Of Thanks

During my previous visit to the florist, the owners mentioned I should come back during the busy holiday season to witness flower making in all its glory. Today was the day. I went in the morning to see the role Thanksgiving plays in the floral industry. These folks were on their feet making arranagements since seven this morning. Most of the orders were friends and families sending centerpieces to their hosts or relatives far away. Beautiful arrangements of orange and red filled the room.

I was hoping I might be able to help out this time around, actually put some flowers together. I know the floral arrangement process requires a lot of knowledge not just of flowers that go together but which vase and fillers go with what. Also, how you cut the flowers and determine which flowers are good enough matters. Some people order arrangements that specify how many roses, daisies, greens while others are just called "Autumn Splendor" and the decoration is left to the discretion of the florist. After watching folks running back and forth fulfilling orders practically bumping into one another and the sight of leftover flower stems piling high on the ground, I realized a better way to help out. I grabbed a broom and began sweeping the broken and discarded greens into large piles away from the design tables and moved them to the trash bins circling the room. People may have been too busy today to teach me how to cut a stem or train me to properly insert it into a vase for fun. So I decided it was time for me to push up my sleeves and offer assistance.

While I was sweeping the floor, I came up with a great idea. You know how they have those "make your own pizza" parties where you pay to bring a group into a restaurant and your group can assist with adding toppings or flipping the dough? They also have "paint your own pottery" parties, "frame your own picture" places and do-it-yourself cooking classes. Why don't they offer floral arrangement classes? Why not open up these closed flower shops on Sunday or one night a week and offer instructions on how to design your own floral arrangements? I am sure art schools and maybe even some local community programs offer flower classes but there is something special about being in the workspace of a florist with coolers of colors, tables and vases all around. Being in that environment makes me feel alive even if I can't design or cut the buds.

Next week I'm invited back for wreath making and even though I have never had a wreath hanging in my house, there is something enticing about learning how to make this central part of the holiday season. With all my cooking of stuffing and pumpkin pie, something was missing this holiday. When I walked into the shop and saw all the beautiful bouquets of people saying thank you to their loved ones, I was warmed and ever more ready to celebrate with my family and be thankful for all I have. I feel lucky to have this year to explore my dreams and overcome my fears. Lucky for a family that supports my project and for a job that is as flexible. I truly am blessed to be in this year of exploration and adventure. And most importantly, I feel lucky that my mother (may her memory be for a blessing) brought me into this wonderful world and inspired me to take on this project.

And with that, I will see you all in December for another monthly project in the making. This time its ballroom dance and its serious. Do you watch "Dancing with the Stars?" Well stay tuned for Dancing with the Resident. Let me end by saying "Gobble Gobble" to us all.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Flower Power

First day volunteering at a flower shop. Actually they call themselves florists so I think flower shop may be outdated. I spent a few hours at a local florist in the Silver Spring area, Creative Floral Designs on Tech Road near the DMV and Kuglers for those who know the area. A family owned place where the owners are surrounded by their children running the business operation and grandkids working in the main office and so many employees making beautiful arrangements and bouquets.

I entered through the shop portion of the store and after a few introductions, was escorted into the main workshop or "design studio" of the place. I would say there were ten to fifteen employees with their hands deep in vases, ribbon, and greens with fresh and silk flowers everywhere. There was a ribbon station. A wall of vases bigger than my Go Ape zip line and coolers of flowers surrounding me. As the orders came in, tags were assigned and distributed amongst the employees to begin fulfilling the orders. Most of the folks I spoke with had worked at this particular flower business ten to thirty years. They own a few places in the area but this is the main headquarters for the arrangement making. To say these folks had experience is an understatement.

There were books of arrangements and signs on the wall telling people how to assemble each order based on the cost of the vase, decorations and flowers. I could quickly see that this was not the type of place you just show up and work. Years of training is required to determine which vase goes with each order. How many flowers to use. Which fillers go with what arrangement. And for flowers... wow. There are colors and species that go together and those that do not. There are glitter sprays and glossy sprays to make leaves look greener or shiny. Greens that look like someone went into the Amazon rain forest to make a bouquet.

It was like a craft store for flower lovers. How anyone actually gets work done in here is beyond me. And this was one of their slow days. Everyone was standing up. Either by a table making arrangements, by the ordering station to process flower requests and tag them or by the balloon and decoration section. There are balloons, teddy bears, lotions, cards, ribbon, you name it.

I saw hardworking people go from one vase to the next. Carefully taping a grid inside each vase with which to fill flowers in all sorts of directions. Hot glue was used for special sponge-like filler used for dried silk arrangements. People were prepping vases and decor for the upcoming holiday season where they get so busy, they literally have no time to sweep the floor which gets piled high with flower scraps not making the cut.

There was a rose station where a woman was unwrapping roses fresh from Florida, analyzing them for color and shape. Trimming those worthy of use. Discarding anything with wilted leaves. Some are used for petals. Others probably made into mulch.

All I know was, I was in love. Now this place is not a small mom and pop operation. Yes, it is family owned and operated. But, they do use some of the major flower distributors online such as FTD to advertise and locate additional orders. Some orders from regular customers are standing orders that they fill on regular intervals. While others, like births, weddings or funerals, are customized and made to order. The smell of flowers was everywhere and I was walking around just watching the artists decorate. Most of the arrangements are standard themes. They require certain flowers, colors, designs. But others are make your own and buyers can walk in off the street to their shop and buy an arrangement out of the cooler.

Though I was not able to actually make any arrangements today, I did learn a lot about the flower business from talking with the locals and watching them in action. I do hope to go back the week before Thanksgiving to help out during their busy season. And perhaps plan another visit around the December holidays to get a true sense of floral chaos in action. I do have to say though that my dream of working in a flower shop was ever so much richer after my exposure today. Not just the environment but the camaraderie amongst the team of employees. People seemed genuinely happy to come to work and happy to be in a business that makes money by making people smile. I definitely plan to return and get my hands knee deep in the buds soon. This was an eye opening experience.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Found a Flower Shop

After much effort, I have found a flower shop in the area open to teaching me what it takes to be a florist! I called several places and most were against the notion of having a volunteer for a few days this month. Some folks were concerned about the liability issue, I suppose in the event that they give me some large bouquet to put together and I accidentally get cut by a thorn. But I was hopeful that there would be some place out there open to my project and my dream of working as a florist once I retire someday.

So alas, with help from friends, I discovered a place willing to take me on. I begin my new adventure on Tuesday so please check back with thoughts from a floral design studio in Silver Spring! Now, I think I am off to rent "Bed of Roses" or "Little Shop of Horrors" to prepare for my big day on the inside.