16 Tips from Exploring New Floral Places

Want to add new dimensions to your designs? Travel. Teach. Connect. Understanding the flower possibilities and needs of another region or culture’s celebrations of life can help you develop new products and services to offer in your floral business. Flowers speak when words fail. This is just one of 16 tips and techniques you can use from a two-day American design program I presented last month to Club Jardin de Guatemala at Instituto Guatemalteco Americano (IGA) in Guatemala City, Guatemala. The audience and I explored floral techniques together while making new friends and having a lot of fun.

1.     Challenge yourself

Experiment with a new style. Travel to a different region. Present flowers to a foreign audience or ethnic group. Instruct a class or sell to customers of a different language. Challenge yourself as a florist. Cultural Arts Director Blanca Nino Norton invited me to IGA to present to floral enthusiasts from Guatemala, Panama and El Salvador. A flower demonstration is perfect for Guatemala, known as the Land of Eternal Spring. Flowers are always in bloom and enjoyed as a part of daily life. The secret to success is using the language of flowers. Color. Form. Texture. Implied emotion. Visual connection.

2.     Work with new kinds of flowers

Discover new flowers and foliage. Take the time to learn local techniques for using native materials.  Incorporating how others use flowers can add an exotic edge to your designs. I learned about Guatemala and the Latin America culture. I shared with the audience North American floral techniques they could use when designing with their native flowers.

3.     Encourage local

Guatemala is the Mayan capital of Central America and home to most Mayan ruins. Guatemala comes from the Mayan Nahuatl word Cuauhtēmallān (nahwiki) meaning place of many trees. Intrinsic to the rugged beauty of the area are twenty-three volcanos. Volcan de Agua is named the Water Volcano because it once produced a destructive flood of water. Volcán de Fuego, the Volcano of Fire, erupted in June with devastating consequences for nearby villages. Yet the lava-rich soil from the volcanos also supports coffee, cacao, rubber tree plantations and beautiful flowers and lush foliage. Attendees brought materials from their local gardens to learn how to use them in new and interesting ways.

4.     Speak the language of flowers

Most of the audience spoke English as a second language. For the rest, words weren’t necessary. They watched the design process for a visual understanding of how arrangements were constructed. A big screen on stage helped the audience see design details more clearly.

5.     Make design easy

[rev_slider alias="16-tips-0"]
  • Divide your flowers into color harmonies before you begin work for ease of design.
  • As you prep, clean the flowers you’ve chosen for each arrangement and place them in a separate bucket. This saves time.
  • Displaying finished designs in themed groups helps communicate a style or color harmony and allows the attendee to photograph all of one look at once.

6.     An interpreter can be helpful

Sometimes you do need words. An interpreter is helpful during question and answer sessions. On day two of the event during a ‘How’d she do that?’ segment, I explained design techniques and floral mechanics for each arrangement with the help of an interpreter.

7.     Ask attendees to supply containers

[rev_slider alias="16-tips-1"] Just as there were a variety of locally grown floral materials, there were also different containers design styles. Asking attendees to bring containers for use onstage helps to get a feel for the region or community and teaches them new ideas for their vessels. For this event, they ranged from traditional wood, pottery, glass and silver containers to industrial looking metal holders in black and silver. These containers were filled with floral foam or specialty products such as brick trays, wreaths and design rings, Floracages, Raquettes and Wedding Belle Bouquet Holders.

8.     Turn everyday local materials into art

Especially interesting to work with on stage were materials created with the local custom of drying fresh cut foliages for use in flower designs. Preserving local materials makes an emotional connection to individuals as they are encouraged to use items that see every day for artistic purposes. Blanca explained how they dry large Monstera leaves on very low heat in a closely-watched oven for a few minutes. Once the leaves have cooled, they can be sprayed painted to match. I enjoyed incorporating their unusual pods, vines, and dried materials into floral arrangements on stage.

9.    Celebrate the amazing!

[rev_slider alias="16-tips-2"] In this land of higher elevations, frequent rain and cool temperatures, the tropical flowers are amazing! The strong, bold color and form of these flowers make them perfect for large, showy designs. Due to the mass of their stems, it is a good idea to cut the stems at a sharp angle creating a point like an arrow at the base of the stem to secure them in floral foam.

10. Mix different materials

The mix of dried materials and fresh flowers adds a unique blend of color and texture. Mixing garden flowers (temperates) with the tropical flowers (tropicals) creates an updated look.

11. Try new forms

[rev_slider alias="16-tips-4"] The attendees enjoyed a hands-on floral jewelry class as the third segment of the event. They learned to fashion a necklace from a wire armature and decorate it by gluing fresh orchids to their design. A key step is to glue a small leaf below the wire and the flower above the wire, gluing the leaf, wire and bloom all together in one space.

12. Cover the basics

We covered a lot of gluing techniques. Equally important are the floral techniques for wiring and taping. Some of the tips shared from the stage are described in this previous blog.

13.Introduce a new mechanic

The multi-day event ended with the attendees creating a floral wall using OASIS® Floral Foam Tiles, a mechanic they’d never seen before.   The ladies divided into seven groups to design each tile. They then worked together to create a wall of continuous floral artwork connected by draping greenery and vines.

14. Enjoy the chaos

The floral tiles were attached to a series of black wood backdrops. It was a wild time of enthusiastic chaos with lots of fun and laughter for the attendees as they had never experienced the wall tiles before and were amazed at how easy they are to use! The tiles can be attached to surfaces with commercial grade hook and loop fastener. In this case, we screwed the tiles to the board with two long screws at the top, one on either side and one in the center of at the base. We added wings nuts to the long wood screws where they extended out of the back of the boards to hold the tiles firmly in place.

15.Demonstrate the appropriate techniques

When designing with floral tiles, cut flower stems short and insert them directly into the foam in your chosen pattern. If the tiles have to be transported or heavy when designed, apply Floralock (following the directions on the can) to secure the flowers in place. Refer to this video for more details.

16. Thank your partners!

Working with people of a different language, culture or country can broaden your design vision and add to your skill, or repertoire of ideas. This type of collaboration requires a patient approach as each person seeks to understand the needs of the other. In our case, the days of presentation could not have taken place without Blanca Nino Norton’s hard work and inspired vision, IGA’s generous hosting of the events and the generosity of products provided by Smithers-Oasis Guatemala and Mexico. Special thanks goes to Enrique Richaud and Enrique Vita Saldivar of Smithers-Oasis Mexico and Beatriz Lopez of Smithers-Oasis Guatemala for supporting the program with products and attending the event. How do you can you expand your repertoire by connecting with potential customers who speak a different language?

Leave a comment

All comments are moderated before being published