Passion Inspires a Second Chance—and an "Adjustable" Fall Centerpiece

Can passion create a second chance to thrive for plants, floral arrangements—and you? It has for Master Gardener Kathy Bondar, who turned her plant-tending side business into a new floral design career when she lost her job in 2007 during the recession. [rev_slider alias="passion1"] Today Kathy’s 2nd Chance Plants is a floral studio with 90 percent of the business from fresh flowers. Kathy's developed a good sense for what pleases her suburban Milwaukee customers, including an “adjustable” everyday centerpiece style. She submitted a fall centerpiece based on that style to the OASIS Floral Products 2017 INSPIRE Floral Design Showcase. Her design chosen as the most inspirational fall holiday design. Smithers-Oasis Floral Design Director Loann Burke AIFD, AAF, PFCI recreated the arrangement and variations for OASIS Floral Products print advertising. Step-by-step photos of the layered centerpiece are included here.

Fresh. Natural. Seasonal.

“I like to create a natural look using long-lasting seasonal materials in a blend of fresh and preserved,” explains Kathy. “The colors and textures of fall spark my creativity. Unlike the spring when flowers have fragile stems, fall flowers have sturdy stems and there’s a great variety to choose from. As the fresh flowers fade away, the recipient can add natural materials from their own garden and enjoy the design longer.” “This style of design is very saleable in my floral studio. I built the design in layers so the materials can be adjusted to fit any shape of table. For example, the cattails can be moved from their horizontal position at the end of the design to the top to add height to the arrangement.”

A saleable style for the season, step by step

[rev_slider alias="passion-2"] To add candlelight to the design, Kathy used Sure Stik atop Anchor Pins to position candles in the arrangement. You could also use double-faced tape to hold votive candles in place. She secured her blocks of wet foam in the double brick tray with waterproof tape. From Kathy’s inspiring arrangement, Loann created a complementary collection of designs that included decorative wire accents. She incorporated eye-catching copper mesh, aluminum wire, and mega wire into the arrangements for added value. She chose copper square and rectangular containers for her arrangements.

Build your brand with fresh

It’s no surprise that flower freshness is a priority for Kathy. Her business began rescuing indoor plants. Today everyday designs are the focus of her floral studio. Her greatest challenge? Fulfilling her shop slogan: Flowers so fresh they are only procured when you place your order! “This is my livelihood. I want to protect it by presenting the best and freshest product to represent my brand,” she says. This means running to the supplier or clipping blooms from her cutting garden for each order. Kathy enjoys growing her personal favorites like scabiosa, sunflowers, daisies, hydrangea and stock to include in her designs. She avidly follows the Floralife 5 Steps of Fresh available on page 103 the latest Smithers-Oasis Product Guide. Visit the new guide for design tips, care and handling steps and product information.

Kathy’s second chance

Kathy’s second career success happened through passion and dedication over time. “For years, I designed underground as a hobbyist,” she says. And she ran Kathy’s 2nd Chance Plants part-time while working full time in marketing. She grew and sold seedlings for spring plantings and serviced interior plants in businesses to give them a second chance to thrive. When she lost her job in 2007, Kathy, undaunted, turned that business into her second chance doing something she loves. In 2010, she opened a floral studio and began selling designs from an online catalog on her website. She understood the need to diversify her services to grow. She increased her online presence and product line to attract new customers. Today, the business is 3 percent plants from seeds to seedlings, 7 percent interior plant maintenance and 90 percent fresh cut arrangement orders.

Family holidays and flowers

Celebrating the holidays with a fresh flower centerpiece is a tradition for many family gatherings. Florists can encourage this tradition by creating an inspiring centerpiece collection. It’s a holiday tradition that each of Kathy and her three siblings host a family gathering each year. She celebrates her favorite season and her November birthday by hosting the family’s Thanksgiving meal. Kathy loves harvest season activities—canning fruits and vegetables or jams and jellies and gathering flowers from her cutting garden. For the holiday table, she incorporates these natural materials into a low and long centerpiece her family can gather around for easy conversation and shared laughter. “In this centerpiece, I loved the softness of dusty miller, the hard smoothness of the candles and the crispness of the fresh foliage.”

What inspires Kathy?

“I am encouraged to try new things I see in industry magazines. I’m also creatively inspired by the designs I see on Smithers-Oasis advertisements and on the website. In fact, I often order products I can’t find at the supplier from the Oasis website.” Kathy especially loves getting feedback from her customers. “I love the look of awe in the face of a recipient. It just blows you away!” Where can your passion take you and your business? Can you increase your holiday centerpiece sales by incorporating the colors, texture and natural materials of the season into your designs? What steps can you take to ensure flower freshness?

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