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“It was amazing!” says Abel Gonzalez Mencio, AIFD, PFCI, TMF of Casa Granada Floral in La Feria, Texas when asked about his visit to the 2024 Philadelphia Flower Show. “There’s no other word for it.”

“The experience was amazing,” the Texan repeats enthusiastically. The event opened Abel’s eyes to a whole new world. “I would invite anybody that has the opportunity to go to the Philadelphia Flower Show at least once in their lifetime.”

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Photo: Abel Gonzalez Mencio

A Texas Cowboy in Philly

If you visited the last day of the Flower Show you may have seen a Texas Cowboy wandering the aisles. You couldn’t miss this Oasis Ambassador. Abel was dressed in his Texas cowboy hat, boots, and shirt - with a Texas flag and lone star on it. He wore a banner that read ‘Texas Designer of the Year’ with his name on the back.

“It was unexpected, to say the least, to find a Texan in Pennsylvania wandering the convention center,” says Abel.

One man asked, “Where's the horse?” Abel responded, “It's outside.” People asked to take photos with him. “It was amazing to me. I told them a little bit about Texas, Oasis, my Ambassadorship and getting to work with talented designers from around the world.”

Abel began as a delivery driver in a small-town flower shop. He represented Acolyte LED, was an ambassador for Rio Roses, 2019 Louisiana State Designer of the Year, 2023 Texas State Florists Association Designer of the Year and is a certified Minister.

Recently, Abel was one of twenty-five floral designers chosen for the new Smithers-Oasis Ambassador Program. “I was thrilled,” he says. This year Oasis Ambassadors could submit their names to a contest. The winner would represent Oasis at the Philadelphia Flower Show and work with the Schaffer Designs team. Abel submitted his name for the live drawing. “We were all watching as Oasis' Kelly Mace drew my name,” he says excitedly.

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Photo: Abel Gonzalez Mencio

“Let me tell you, it was amazing,” says Abel. This year the Schaffer Design team moved from competition into legacy design. Creating the first impression for viewers, the team built a huge entryway canopy over the bridge leading visitors into the main flower setting. Inside were water features, waterfalls, flowers, trees, plants, and flower fragrance everywhere. Vendors. Food stalls. People selling clothing, plants, and flowers. “An orchid society selling orchids I had never seen before,” remembers Abel. “It's nothing short of overwhelming,” He was honored to have the opportunity to scrub buckets, fill them with water and flower foods, and process flowers along with these designers. He enjoyed bonding with the team.

“Thirty designers gathered from all over the world to help Bill Schaffer and Kristine Kratt bring their Philly show vision to life.”

Bill Schaffer AIFD is a floral visionary and talented designer, but his real superpower is team building. He and his wife Kris pull together an amazing, award-winning Philly design team year after year. Each volunteer pays their own travel expenses to participate. This year’s team included volunteers from Estonia, Spain. Denmark. Scotland, Belgium, Holland, Nicaragua, Columbia, Australia, and the US. “It was thirty people, but one cohesive unit, which was amazing to consider,” Abel continues.

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Photo: Abel Gonzalez Mencio

Team Bamboo

“Bill gave designers options with a lot of leeway to do their own thing.” Abel was assigned to Team Bamboo. “I worked side-by-side with Mike Boerma of the Boerma Institute in Holland, Ahti Lyra from Estonia, and Mark Pampling from Australia,” Abel shares excitedly. “I was amazed by being able to work with them in the bamboo gardens with tropical flowers from around the world.” Many varieties he had never seen before. “It's like being a kid in a candy store,” Abel confides.

“None of our product was touching the floor, everything was suspended.” The team was up and down on ladders all day, binding bamboo, twisting, turning and making armatures so the Oasis could go into the trays. And, making sure that the Oasis was water-saturated enough to last the first days of the show.

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Photo: Abel Gonzalez Mencio

Incorporating Oasis products

“It’s mind blowing to see the ways people incorporate Oasis products. I've always used floral cages for funerals or an arrangement.” In Philly, Abel saw people tacking caged floral foam on walls, nailing, screwing them into the wall brackets on furniture, or using them on the floor.

“I introduced myself as an Oasis Ambassador and thanked people for using our product. Because that's what the ambassadorship is about,” Abel explains, “promoting the product and making sure it’s used correctly.”

“Bill got us a VIP pass so we could view our designs before everybody walked in.” The lights were low, the mood set with the flowers, it was stunningly beautiful. Ten minutes later It's like a madhouse. People running around taking pictures, selfies, and pushing each other. “Everybody got to see our work, which was the highlight of everything.” Abel explains. People stopped, took pictures, and noticed every detail. “It was nothing short of spectacular.”

Abel visited the AIFD booth as well. “The amount of talent in that room! The AIFD and CFD designers working to complete their setups was just something to see. That was a team! That was amazing,” he noted enthusiastically. It inspired Abel to do something different.

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Photo: Abel Gonzalez Mencio

The Rose Experiment

Abel did what he calls his ‘Rose Experiment. “I did this once in Times Square, New York,” he explains. It’s just like the Philadelphia Flower Show, people from all walks of life, come and go from everywhere. Abel bought two dozen pink roses. Photographed them on a table with a background of Times Square lights and signs.

He gave out the roses, then sat in the Times Square bleachers to watch. “I was amazed to look into the crowd and see the roses moving in all different directions. People getting into taxis, giving them to their daughters, the street performers had them. That's an amazing gift. To share our passion, our love of flowers and spread the joy to total strangers.”

Abel did the same thing in Philadelphia. He went across the street to the market and purchased yellow roses. Then, handed roses to anyone who wanted a ‘yellow rose of Texas.’ Watching as the yellow roses moved away in all different directions. Up and down the escalators, in the lobby area, walking out towards the restaurants.

“That’s the love and the passion that I have for floristry, the state of Texas, and the yellow rose of Texas. Handing out roses. Passing that love along to other people, and having them enjoy it.” People found Abel on Facebook and sent him photos.

“To me, that's what this is about. Making a difference in someone's life, making them smile, helping them enjoy and learn about flowers. That makes being a florist special.”

Abel’s superpower

“I've always thought of my Texas hospitality as my superpower,” says Abel. “It's a gift, that I've been blessed with, to be able to speak to people with a feeling of satisfaction and friendship. It’s the Southern way.”

 “It's very humbling to have these experiences. I always dreamt of being a Texas Master Florist, being inducted into AIFD, competing in Sylvia Cup and participating in the Philadelphia Flower Show. God puts these opportunities in my path. It's something that I will cherish and remember.”

With forty-five plus years in design, Abel offers this advice to florists, “Educate yourself about products and how to use them. Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest, there's so many things nowadays that I wasn't fortunate to have in my early years.” Now, at the click of a button, you can learn how to utilize products, advance your skills and knowledge of design.

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Photo: Abel Gonzalez Mencio

Sharing the love

Abel has dual citizenship and often goes to Mexico. He visits small flower shops in quaint little villages his family came from. He takes them knives, scissors, floral tape and little “goodies” they can play with. “And I show ‘this is what this does.’ I glue a quick little corsage. It's like magic in a tube. They look forward to my next visit. That's how we build relationships, friendships. Sometimes it takes giving them something with a bit of our knowledge. We can learn from them as well.”

The floral adhesive, and the yellow rose are the same thing in different forms. It's giving a gift of acknowledgement to each person.

“If I could sum up my journey to the Philadelphia Flower Show and working side-by-side with amazing designers towards a common goal. It is that word. Amazing. Seeing a vision come to life. Amazing!”

Several years ago, at a Texas Cup competition in Austin, a Senator's wife, there for Congressional Days spoke to Abel. “She said something to me that rings in my mind every time I go to events that are larger than life. She said, “Little boy from South Texas does good.”

“And to me, that's the key to being successful and advancing in this industry - never stop learning.” When Abel won the Louisiana Cup his theme was ‘Bloom where you're planted.’ “I've started to bloom where I've been planted,” Abel confides. “I'm planted in South Texas, but that doesn't mean I'm always going to be here. I can travel anywhere.” Abel continues to be amazed by his journey.

What amazes you about your floral journey?