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Floral Design Education

How Does Formal Education Influence


the Everyday Work of a Floral
Designer?

An Ethnobiographical Approach to Understanding


Floral Design Education
Katherine M. Larsen
Westminster College
A thesis study submitted in partial fulfillment
of the requirement for the degree
Of
Master of Education with Adult Learning Certificate

Westminster College,
Salt Lake City
May 2014

Floral Design Education

Abstract

The purpose of this project is to examine how formal education influences the
everyday work of a floral designer. The project is an autoethnography. It focuses
mainly on the personal experience of the author, along with interviews and
perspectives of the authors co-workers, employers, and experts in the field of floral
design education. It encompasses constructivist and experiential methodologies and
framework. Through analysis of journaling, personal letters, and interviews, the data
indicates that there are three major ways in which floral design education influences
the everyday work of a floral designer. They are categorized as follows: 1-basic
design and industry skills and knowledge; 2-business skills, professionalism and
career advancement; 3-and personal growth and achievement. Recommendations
include strong advocacy for the benefits of receiving a formal floral design education,
and suggestions for a wealth of future research on the topic of floral design education.

Floral Design Education

Table of Contents

CHAPTER ONE: INTRODUCTION................6


A. Statement of Topic and Research Question..7
B. Potential Significance............8
C. Statement of Researcher............9
D. Theoretical Framework...........................10
E. Limitations...................................................................................................11
CHAPTER TWO: LITERATURE REVIEW..............................................................12
A. The History and State of the Industry and Education.................................12
B. The Current Economic and Educational State of the Floral Design
Industry In the United States............................................................................16
C. Asian and European Floral Culture.............................................................19
D. The Transfer of Knowledge From Formal Education to Workplace
Settings/Theoretical Framework......................................................................21
E. Life Satisfaction From Formal Education and Floristry..............................24
CHAPTER THREE: METHODOLOGY....................................................................28
A. Overall Approach and Rationale.................................................................28
B. Setting.........................................................................................................29
C. Participants..................................................................................................30
D. Data Gathering Methods and Rationale......................................................34
E. Data Analysis...............................................................................................35
F. Validity and Trustworthiness.......................................................................35
G. Ethical Considerations................................................................................36

Floral Design Education

CHAPTER FOUR: DATA ANALYSIS AND FINDINGS........................................37


A. Introduction................................................................................................37
B. Findings.......................................................................................................39
1.Basic Design and Industry Skills and Knowledge............................39
a. The Very Basics/Mechanics and Techniques.....................40
b. The Principles and Elements of Design...............................43
c. Flower and Plant Knowledge...............................................47
2. Business Skills.................................................................................50
a. Professionalism....................................................................51
b. Business Sense.....................................................................52
c. Choosing Smarter Business Practices..................................53
d. Understanding Strengths and Weaknesses...........................54
e. Designing Smarter............................................................55
f. Valuable Employees.............................................................57
3. Personal Growth and Achievement.................................................60
a. Practical Life Skills/Self Confidence...................................60
b. Lifelong Learning................................................................63
c. Life Satisfaction/Calling......................................................66
C. Conclusion...................................................................................................69
CHAPTER FIVE: IMPLICATIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS........................71
A. Introduction................................................................................................71
B. Results71

Floral Design Education

C. Recommendations/Implications for Future Research.................................72


1.Types of Floral Design Education....................................................72

2.Certification Programs......................................................................73
3.The Benefits of On-The-Job Training...............................................73
4.Life Circumstances...........................................................................73
5. Floral Design Educators...................................................................74
6. The Drop in the Florist Population..................................................74
7. Life Calling/Satisfaction..................................................................74
D. Conclusion..................................................................................................75
REFERENCES............................................................................................................76
APPENDIX A (IRB FORM).......................................................................................79

Floral Design Education

Chapter I: Introduction

Design is as important to the child exploring the possibilities of the world, as


it is to the architect developing new concepts, and as it is to the electrician
placing power points or the furniture designer working with a cabinet-maker
and manufacturer. As such, design is vested in every member of our
community and touches every aspect of our lives (Straub, 2009, p. 2).
Design is my life. Every day I go to work and arrange flowers. Floral design
has become who I am and what I am passionate about. It is a natural and instinctive
process that I relish in on a daily basis. It is intriguing to me to look back before I
had ever designed a single flower arrangement and remember what it was like to not
know where to begin. At some point in everyones lifespan, one has to learn the
importance of performing a task well. Education changes who we are and what we
do. When I began the journey of becoming a florist I had very little understanding of
how lucky I was to be gaining the education I received. I naively assumed as an
eighteen year old that you found some profession that you were interested in, you
then applied to a college that taught about that subject. Then when you graduated
from that school you knew what you needed to know to become a dentist, a teacher,
or in my case, a florist.
The school of my choice had a Horticulture program in which you could
emphasize in floral design; and so I enrolled. I did not realize that there was not a
minimum standard or requirement to become a florist, nor did I understand that
programs of a similar nature were few and far between. As I progressed through my
coursework, I began to understand to a small extent the nature of floral design

Floral Design Education

education. Still, I was very nave to the true facts of the industry. It was not until I

entered the field as a young professional that I was exposed to, and then shocked by,
the complete lack of consistency, expectation, and non-conformity that the floral
design industry demands.
When I attempted to enter the field as a new graduate, I had a potential
employer give me a trial run. He instructed me to go in the cooler and select
whatever flowers I wanted to and make an arrangement of my choosing. Then he told
me if I performed well, I could have a job. Half an hour later he was absolutely
shocked at the quality of my work. I will always remember him asking, How did
you know how to do that? I was a little surprised because he knew from my resume
that I had recently graduated with a four year degree emphasizing Floriculture. I told
him that I learned it in school. Again he was shocked. He had a complete lack of
confidence in formal education, and in fact had told me frankly that he felt like it was
a waste of time for florists to go to school when they could learn all that they needed
to know on the job. Over the next year or so I heard him repeat that same question
over and over again, How did you know how to do that? The answer was always
the same. I learned it at school.
Statement of Topic and Research Question
This experience, and innumerable others over the past ten years as a designer,
has led me to ask another question over and over. Namely, how does formal
education influence the everyday work of a floral designer? I have experienced the
talent of many capable individuals over the past years that have not had the
opportunities that I have had for education within the industry. Yet there has been a

Floral Design Education

notable and distinct difference between those who have had the opportunity for

education in the field, and those who have not. My goal in this research is to
understand the benefits of formal education in floral design and how they directly link
to workplace satisfaction and success.
Potential Significance
I have taken a specific look at how education changes the practical every day
execution and craft of the florist. It is my hope that my efforts will enlighten others
about the benefits of floral design education. I hope to take a small step towards
legitimizing and giving credibility to the field of floristry. The Department of Labor
Statistics states that, Workers must have moderate-term on-the-job training to gain
the necessary skills for this occupation. However, those with postsecondary training
have a competitive advantage in this labor market (US Census Bureau, 2013). It is
my belief, and the main goal of my research, to back up and reinforce the importance
of education in floral design. I believe that a formal education is an incredibly
valuable experience, and that it enhances the ability for florists in general to thrive in
the workplace setting and in the labor market. I have shared my own experiences, as
well as the experience of others in the field, to determine the worth of education for
floral designers.
The floral design industry currently lacks a consistent national standard
requirement to become a floral designer. The lack of specific guidelines has lead to
decreased continuity from the industry as a whole, and because there is no standard,
there is also decreased value placed on education for florists. This absence of
standard leads to a complete lack of continuity in the kinds of value that the industry

Floral Design Education

as a whole, and the nation as a people place on education for florists. We as a trade

are putting ourselves at a disadvantage because we have not established distinction


for ourselves as professionals with any kind of consistency. Therefore, younger
interested potential employees shy away from, or are not able to get into, an industry
that could be of great benefit and personal reward. The industry employees as a
whole are aging at a rapid pace without skilled workers to take their place. This is
despite a positive outlook for industry growth. According to the US Dept. of Labor,
floral design employment is expected to grow 13%. Job opportunities should be
good, and mass-market floral employment is expected to rise 23% (US Census
Bureau, 2013). The potential significance of the project is getting florists and those
associated with the industry to think about the future of the industry and understand
how floral design education fits into that future.
Statement of Researcher
I have had the opportunity to spend my entire professional life working in the
floral industry. I have worked in small shops and large corporations, and I have seen
and learned an incredible amount because of my experiences. I have had a hunger for
continuing my formal education. I have enjoyed competing at regional and national
floral design competitions and have been awarded the Utah State Floral Designer of
the Year award as well as the third place designation at the National Alliance of
Florists Associations design competition. I have sought after state and international
certifications including receiving the Utah Certified Floral Designer, (UCFD) and the
AIFD designation through the American Institute of Floral Design. All of these
experiences make me very much an insider in this research. I acknowledge that my

Floral Design Education

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experience and educational opportunities influence my views about the importance of

education within floral design. I also believe that this familiarity provides a wealth of
understanding and experience that adds validity and depth to this study.
Theoretical Framework
In this work I take a constructivist point of view and also lean heavily on the
concept of experiential learning. Constructivists believe that we gain knowledge by
building on experiences and information that we have previously obtained.
Experiential knowledge is about having experiences and making meaning out of those
incidents. This study is all about learning from specific individuals experiences in
formal education and how that translates to the workplace setting. I acknowledge that
this study is not easily segmented into cut and dry results. Each participant comes to
the table with their own stories of education and experience, and it is impossible to
separate them and compartmentalize these experiences. For this purpose I have
chosen to look through the lens of constructivism.
This study is an ethnographic look into the lives of three floral designers, two
floral managers, and three educational professionals in the field of floristry. It is
meant to represent a small sampling of individuals who are working within the
industry, and educating in the industry, in an attempt to understand how their varying
levels of floral design education impact their every day working situation. This study
is an autoethnography; therefore, the most central participant for the research is
myself. I have been journaling my own personal experiences and drawing heavily
from that data to inform my topic. In addition I have interviewed two current coworkers, three experts in the field of floral design education, and two managers in the

Floral Design Education

floral design field. Each of them has differing levels of floral design education and

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experience.
Limitations
This study is not a quantitative sampling, large or small. This research is not
designed to delve into the varying levels of floral design education that are available,
nor is it meant to determine which of the options for formal education are the best or
most effective. This study is not meant to compare levels and types of education that
are currently available in the floral industry.
This work is about beginning to understand a transfer of knowledge from a
formal setting to workplace training in an attempt to understand the value of formal
floral design education, and how it influences the everyday work of a floral designer.

Floral Design Education

Chapter II: Literature Review

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In an effort to better understand what information has been studied in regards


to floral design education, and the transfer of workplace learning, I will synthesize
and analyze the literature on this topic. First, I will explore the history of floral
design education in the United States. I will then survey the current economic and
educational state of the floral design industry in the United States, and how it
compares and contrasts to international standards. Lastly I will discuss the emotional
and long lasting benefits and life satisfaction that can come from receiving a formal
education and working within the field of floral design as a profession as well as the
theoretical framework that has been used in this study.
The History and State of the Industry and Education
In order to understand the current state of floral design education it is
important that we take a brief look at the history of the industry. Floral design has
been a pastime and profession for many centuries. The first known and recorded
designers were monks in Japan nearly 600 years ago (Kubo, 2006). Their practices
with flowers were deeply spiritual in nature and have become a rich part of their
culture that still thrives today. Flowers and rituals however go back even further than
these Japanese roots (Kubo, 2006).
Recorded floral traditions were established by the earliest civilizations.
Recently flowers were found at the burial site of an ancient human dwelling near
northern Israel's Mount Carmel. Two skeletons, one of an adult male, and other a
child who were buried side by side approximately 12,000 years ago were found with
sage and mint which were likely chosen not only for their beauty, but also for their

Floral Design Education

strong aromatic scent (Than, 2013). The human link to flowers and the joy and

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significance that they bring has been in place for many centuries.
In Asia and Europe these traditions and practices of floral knowledge became
commonplace over the centuries. America however, as a new developing country had
to focus its early energy on survival. The first settlers in America soon learned the
harsh reality of survival in the New World. In this era, agriculture was conducted
solely for growing food. Yet there was still a love of flowers (Treadway,1997, p.
12). The settlers brought with them their heritage and love for flowers but were
forced focus on building a new world for a period of time before floristry could
survive. It was not until the late 1800s that the floral trade began to thrive, and even
then it was mostly in the larger cities that flowers were made available on a large
scale.
It is clear that flowers and flower arranging have made a significant stamp on
our culture, and our American floral philosophies. The European flower traditions
and phenomenon have been a rich part of that history. In England Queen Victoria
revolutionized the floral trade by her habits of gifting flowers to friends. Her lavish
wedding, which included copious flowers, became the social ideal to strive for
(Treadway,1997, p. 20). Young ladies were expected to learn the meanings of
flowers and how to arrange them in their homes as a part of becoming
accomplished women. This excitement and love for designing and learning about
flowers trickled into American culture as news and fashion from Europe was
paramount. The floral literature of the period was almost all English and was
eagerly read by the colonists (Treadway,1997, p. 12). This European influence is

Floral Design Education

the reason that floral education began to take shape. In these Victorian times,

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florists had professional expertise that went well beyond making bouquets and selling
cut flowers. Many produced books on the cultivation of plants and flowers. Some
were quite well educated (Treadway,1997, p. 23). It would be many years however
until people began to sell solely flowers, and therefore teach about flower arranging
exclusively in America. During this time most of the flower arrangements came from
nurserymen and hobbyists who grew the flowers themselves and sold them as a small
part of their businesses (Treadway,1997, p. 23).
The Civil war had an immense impact on the floral industry. In 1865
Abraham Lincolns funeral was a turning point for flowers. There were many large
funeral tributes including a chair made entirely of flowers dedicated to the martyr
president. With the massive number of deaths, any flowers that were available began
to be accepted as appropriate whereas only white flowers had previously been
accepted as such. This shift and high demand for flowers changed the industry and
the 1860s saw a huge expansion of florists in the nation (Treadway,1997, p. 27).
While little has been written on the formal education of the era, we can surmise that
the majority of the education available was through publications, books, on the job
training and trial and error.
1884-1934 serve as points of reference for floral design education. In 1884
the Society of American Florists was formed which is still a leading force in the
industry today. In 1934 Teleflora was founded (which was originally the TDS or
Telegraph delivery service). Teleflora was originally set up as a means of
communication between florists and still exists today as such, but also provides many

Floral Design Education

educational opportunities through workshops and a learning center of their own

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(Treadway,1997, p. 32-33). However, it was not until the 1920s that there was much
formal floral design education in the United States. During this time, there was an
increase in training programs for florists (Treadway,1997, p.74). Floral schools such
as the Philadelphia School of Floral De
sign began to hold classes and offer certificates in floristry.
Essentially the floral industry in America came from a need-to-survive basis
from its very roots. Other parts of the world have had centuries more to develop their
culture and love for flowers as well as their educational advancements, requirements
and standards. We have been left with not much more than an economic model of
supply and demand, which has driven the industry, and therefore the education of the
industry. This has resulted in a lack of continuity and standard for floral design
education.
As the industry grew and evolved and a demand for more flowers grew, so did
the number of florists. This growth provided a need for training, and subsequently
many different schools of floral design, and programs at universities began to emerge.
There has however been very little regulation, standardization, requirements, or
legislation of education. The amount of and quality of the kinds of information and
education has fluctuated wildly over the years and has come to what we are left with
currently, which is a state of confusion and lack of cohesion in floral design
education.

Floral Design Education

The Current Economic and Educational State of the Floral Design Industry in

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the United States


Current opportunities for floral design education include but are not limited to,
High School FFA floriculture programs, 2 year associates degrees at Junior Colleges,
4 year degrees at Universities that are usually associated with a Horticulture
emphasis, certificates or degrees from technical colleges, certificates and degrees for
course completion through schools specifically for floral design, certifications
through state, national, and international floral organizations, online learning
tutorials, websites and degrees, and traveling shows that are sponsored by industry
partners and wholesale houses.
All of these educational opportunities are available at varying levels of cost,
and time and commitment requirements. To my knowledge, no research has been
done on the effectiveness of any of these programs in comparison to one another.
Formal education is therefore hard to define as far as this study goes. My experience
is not with only one, but many of these educational opportunities combined. Without
any research to back my claims, it is difficult to substantiate my position, but
generally I would surmise that more florists have little or no formal education than
those that do. With all of these varying levels of education, what is required to
actually become a florist? The U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics occupational outlook
handbook states that, Most floral designers have a high school diploma or the
equivalent and learn their skills on the job over the course of a few months (US
Census Bureau, 2013).

Floral Design Education

I believe that it is still that case that the majority of florists are receiving

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training solely through the shops that they are learning in. J Schwanke, flower expert
and educator, agrees that the majority of florists working in Mom and Pop flower
shops have no more than a high school education. (personal communication, January
31, 2014). I believe that this lack of continuity and educational equality greatly
affects the state of the industry and where we are headed currently as a profession.
The U.S. Census Bureau cites the average wage of a florist at $23,610 per
year or $11.35 per hour (2013). Because of this low advertised wage, younger
interested potential employees shy away from, or are not able to get into an industry
that could be of great benefit and personal reward. According to the U.S. census
bureau, the number of florists in America over the past three years has dropped
dramatically from 17,124 in 2009 to 15, 307 in 2011 (2013). There has been a 37
percent drop in the population of florists since 1998, leaving 9,435 out of business
(Society of American Florists). The industry employees as a whole are aging at a
rapid pace without any skilled workers to take their place (Leanne Kesler, personal
communication, July 9, 2013). There are some conflicting reports about the future of
the industry however. There is an expectation of a 9 percent decline of the number of
floral designers from 2010 to 2020 according to he U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
As a result they predict that there will be less need for florists as fewer people
purchase flower arrangements (United States Census Bureau, 2013).
However, these statistics do not take into account a very large portion of the
floral industry. The numbers for the national statistics only account for traditional
floral businesses. There are a sizeable number of employees who work for large

Floral Design Education

corporations with in-house floral departments, or in the hospitality industry, or as

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event planners and personal contractors that are not taken into this statistical
overview. It is in fact in these organizations where most florists actually make a
prosperous living. And yet, these vocations are not at all included in the current
statistical reports (Leanne Kesler, personal communication, July 9, 2013). Other
reports that take these factors into consideration tell a different story about the
industry.
In a recent look at the state of Oregon, the US Dept. of Labor stated, floral
design employment is expected to grow 13%. Job opportunities should be good, and
mass-market floral employment is expected to rise 23% (Leanne Kesler, personal
communication, July 9, 2013). Indeed over the past years flower sales have increased
even despite the economic downturn. The consumption of flower products has
grown consistently from $98.50 per capita consumption in 2010 to $109.40 per capita
consumption in 2012 (safnow.org, 2013).
SAF President Robert Williams II, AAF, PFCI, addresses the concerns of the
decreasing number of florists, People will look at this and think the retail floral
business is going away, but its not; it is simply changing, He argues that the average
sales within the surviving shops has increased 40 percent from 2000 to 2011. The
business is not going away, Williams said. Each shop is healthier than it was 10
years ago; there are just fewer of them (safnow.org, 2013).
So, how do these numbers relate to the education in the floral industry? The
Department of Labor Statistics states that, Workers must have moderate-term onthe-job training to gain the necessary skills for this occupation. However, those with

Floral Design Education

postsecondary training have a competitive advantage in this labor market (US

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Census Bureau, 2013). The difficulty in receiving the education lies in the lack of
continuity and conformity in what kinds of education are available, and what the
quality of that education is. If the future florists are to survive in the higher grossing
segment of this profession, a thorough understanding of the field of floristry and
design must be achieved.
Asian and European Floral Culture
Europe and Asias educational opportunities and requirements for floral
designers lie in stark contrast to that of the American standards. The earliest records
of flower arranging stem back to monks in Japan who began arranging flowers as a
part of connecting God, man and earth (Kubo, 2006, p. 1). Soon after, flower
arranging was introduced to the European culture and it is deeply rooted in both
Asian and European culture today. It is because of this long standing cultural
difference that the climate for selling flowers is so different in Europe and Asia. Ren
van Rems, renowned floral designer and educator, believes that a large part of the
difference comes from the attitude towards flowers. (R. van Rems, personal
communication, January 30, 2014).
In Europe seventy six percent of flowers purchases were for self, rather than
for a gift. It is an entirely different climate in the United States. He states, we have
a very large group of people in this country who will buy, a six pack of beer before
they buy flowers. (R. van Rems, personal communication, January 30, 2014).
We simply do not see the benefit and need for flowers in our lives because of our
differing cultures.

Floral Design Education

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In an interview with Leanne Kesler, co-owner of the Floral Design Institute,

she shared her opinion about the difference between our American culture in
comparison with that of Europe.
Flowers are a necessity there, they are not here, it is a luxury here. I would
match it up with a barista...an espresso barista in Starbucks it's considered to
be eh? whatever. Basically in the U.S. it a eh? job. You go to Europe, being a
barista is a very fabulous job. Because, they realize that there is a skill that
goes with it and they respect that. (personal communication, January 20,
2014).
It is important to note that other countries find themselves in a similar
situation to that of the United States. Australia is also facing similar problems with a
lack of education and continuity of floral design education. Colin Straub, a
prominent Australian floral designer was given the opportunity by the Australian
government through a fellowship funded by the Department of Innovation to visit
Germany and the Netherlands.
In his visits he was tasked to identify current issues facing the Floral Design
Industry in Australia, and learned how to address their problems and concerns by
looking at the challenges through a European lens. The European floral design
industry is one of the most vibrant in the world and in this report Straub explores the
reasons why the industry flourishes there are opposed to his native Australia. In the
very beginning of his report he states, The most significant issue for floral designers,
as employers, is a lack of design skills in employees that would allow the designer

Floral Design Education

and retailer to create smarter designs, using fewer materials and utilizing non-

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traditional horticultural materials (Straub, 2009, p. 1).


At the conclusion of his visits, he made recommendations for the government,
business, industry, education, and community. Most significantly, he endorsed the
idea of the great need to promote and improve the education and training of both
growers and floral designers and a greater public awareness of newer design styles
(Straub, 2009, p. 21). Straub assesses that Design has to be seen as more than an
Art disciplineit is a fundamental economic and business tool for the 21st Century
(Straub, 2009, p. 2). He also firmly believes that, Greater public awareness and
respect for creative designers and the industry in general is both possible and essential
in ensuring future financial prosperity (Straub, 2009, p. 23).
The difference between the floral profession in America compared to Asia and
Europe is astounding, and although there is no research to back up these assumptions,
it is likely that the difference lies in part in the types and quality of education
requirements and availability. Consumers and employees alike value education, and
the educational requirements that are placed on a profession widely influence the way
we view the credibility of a vocation.
The Transfer of Knowledge From Formal Education to Workplace
Settings/Theoretical Framework
Though no formal research has been conducted on the transfer of learning that
occurs from an educational setting to the workplace in floral design, much research
has been done on the topic in general. There is an overwhelming belief that formal
education does greatly effect on the job application in areas such as greater cognitive

Floral Design Education

ability, greater job knowledge, and greater achievement motivation (Thomas &

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Feldman, 2009, p. 96). Core task performance in the workplace is increased due to
the level of education that individuals receive (Thomas, Feldman, 2009, p. 89).
It is however very difficult to pigeon hole practical education, (input) to on
the job performance (output) in simple and tidy measures. Indeed a formal
educational experience is a complex phenomenon that is interrelated to everyday life
and learning. Overall, learning in the workplace and relating it to education is a
complex, and interrelated phenomenon that cannot be separated from personal
experience (Eraut, 2004, p. 251). Eraut explains,
Part of the problem is that when we refer to an experience we are probably
thinking about a single episode or incident, but when we talk about what we
have learned from experience in general we are probably referring to our
accumulated learning from a series of episodes (2004, p. 251). Indeed, the
transfer of knowledge is not an event, but a learning process that takes time
and changes often depending upon the setting in which the learning is taking
place (Eraut, 2009, p. 4).
I believe that we learn, and therefore transfer that learning through our own
experiences and through those experiences building upon each other to form an
overall idea of who we are and what we do. It is because of this that I take a very
constructivist and experiential approach to this research project. Experiential learning
as defines by John Dewey is essentially experience plus reflection equals learning
(Fowler, 2007, p. 427). I will be writing about my own and others experiences and
directly reflecting and, constructing meaning from those experiences. Mirriam,

Floral Design Education

Caffarella and Baumgartner claim that, a constructivist stance maintains that

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learning is a process of constructing meaning; it is how people make sense of their


experience (2007, p. 291). Constructivists believe that knowledge is about taking
what is already there and building upon it through experience and reflection. I want
to make it clear that workplace training, and learning are just as important as formal
education when it comes to floral design. It is imperative that florists not only bring
their experience to the table, but also their education. The two must be explored
together to create optimum results for real workplace application.
There are of course other benefits of education that reach beyond job
performance. The Southern Regional Board of Education reports the financial
benefits that can come from receiving a bachelors degree. They state that those who
receive a four-year degree bring in, nearly double what a high school educated adult
earns (sreb.org, 2013). Thomas and Feldman state that, in addition to positively
influencing core task performance, education level is also positively related to
creativity and citizenship behaviors and negatively related to on-the-job substance
abuse and absenteeism (2009, p. 89).
Creativity is also enhanced through formal education. the positive
outcomes of education (e.g., greater cognitive ability, greater job knowledge, and
greater achievement motivation) are likely to accelerate performance on jobs with
high complexity (Thomas & Feldman, 2009, p. 96). Creativity and ingenuity is
important in any workplace setting, but especially so in the Floral Design industry. In
short, education not only transfers to the workplace setting, but it allows individuals
to achieve a better version of themselves. The biggest and longest lasting benefit to

Floral Design Education

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students form achieving higher levels of creativity is the application that can be made
to daily living and the potential for the heightened enjoyment of everyday life
(Anderson, 1990, p. 56).
Life Satisfaction from Formal Education and Floristry
At the 13th national convention of the Society of the American Florists, an
unknown speaker proclaimed,
The occupation that we follow is in itself one of the most beautiful, the most
interesting and ennobling that the development of mans higher nature has
brought into existence. It has always seemed to me that the intimate contact
with nature and her various complicated processes, that our calling makes
necessary, should tend to make up better men in every way (Treadway, 1997,
p.12).
My education provided a wealth of benefits to my daily workplace life, and
truly has made me better in every way. There is a long list of reasons why I am
grateful for my education, but the single most important thing that my schooling has
brought to me has been a measure of life satisfaction because I am able to
passionately follow a profession that interests me. I simply would not have even
known about so much of the floral industry and what it has to offer without my
formal education. Dik and Hansen (2008) report that interest is actually an emotion
that can be viewed physically and heard vocally when prompted. They assess that
this emotion (interest) is intertwined with the emotion of happiness. In addition they
promote the idea that cultivating this interest is a path to well-being (2008 p. 89).
They argue that following ones interests not only in personal life, but also especially

Floral Design Education

in work, promotes happiness in life. They cite the work of John Holland who

25

promotes the theory that, most people select careers that are congruent with their
interests and that the degree of congruence is a positive predictor of work-related
well-being indices such as job satisfaction (Holland, 1997, p. 29).

Life satisfaction

and happiness comes from doing something daily that keeps you interested and
satisfied. Part of living the good life, in our view, means living the interested life
(Dik & Hansen, 2008, p. 95).
Greater measures of happiness have been available to me because I see my
work as not merely employment, but as a calling (Duffy, R. D., Allan, B. A., Autin,
K. L., & Bott, E. M., 2013, p.42). In a study aimed to understand life satisfaction that
can come from perceived life callings. Duffy, Annen, Autin and Bott studied 553
working adults to come to their conclusions. Their study focused on the idea that
greater happiness and life satisfaction can be found when individuals do what they
love in their careers. Their findings were that living a calling in life produced a much
higher level of satisfaction. They also explore very briefly some of the challenges
that keep individuals from living their callings, which included inadequate
educational opportunities. Generally, students who feel called to a particular line of
work display greater levels of career maturity and satisfaction within the academic
domain (Duffy, Bott, Allan, Dik & Torrey, 2012), and adults who feel called display
greater levels of career commitment, work meaning, and job satisfaction (Duffy, et
al, 2012, p.42).

Floral Design Education

I would not have even known about the opportunity to have this calling

26

without my education and I also know that for many others, this also could be the
case if they were allowed to pursue it in a realistic fashion.
Those with a graduate/professional degree were significantly more likely than
those with a college degree or less than a college degree to endorse living out
their calling, and those with a college degree were significantly more likely to
endorse living a calling than those with less than a college degree (Duffy, et
al, 2012, p. 42).
I also believe that one of the reasons that I have found satisfaction in floristry
is because of the flowers themselves. Flowers reflect our emotions and moods.
They often convey feelings of compassion, regret, merriment, or even romance
(Gueguen, 2011, p105). Clearly flowers are a large part of why individuals choose to
become florists. Flowers make people happy, and florists want to bring that
happiness to them through their expertise and understanding of them. Our culture has
made flowers an important part of every life-changing event we experience. Births,
weddings, funerals, sicknesses, and congratulations all generally involve flowers at
some point. Flowers can have amazing effects on people in ways.
Studies have shown increased levels of happiness simply because of their
exposure to flowers. In one study women who were merely exposed to flowers were
more attracted to men than women who did not have exposure to flowers. Another
study conducted in Europe showed that people were more likely to pick up
hitchhikers if they were holding flowers (Gueguen, 2011). Alzheimer patients,
women in elevators, and those recovering in hospitals have all shown the power of

Floral Design Education

flowers in studies on the psychological effects of flowers (Gueguen, 2011, p 105;

27

Haviland-Jones, J., Rosario, H. H., Wilson, P., & McGuire, T. R. 2005, p. 117). If
flowers have such an impact on so many people in every situation of life, than surely
they will impact a florist who is exposed to them on a daily basis.
In conclusion, our history as a country has greatly impacted the way floral
design education has evolved into its current state. The current economic situation
for floristry is generally positive if it is looked at through the proper lens, and there
are great opportunities for growth and a future in floristry. This future however can
only be achieved through education. In addition, formal education clearly affects the
workplace performance of workers in any field, including floristry. Potentially the
greatest outcome of formal education for anyone, and specifically for the florist is an
understanding of opportunities that are available to them, and therefore an
understanding of life satisfaction and calling that can come from working with such
an emotionally charged material.

Floral Design Education

Chapter III: Methodology

28

Overall Approach and Rationale


This study is based on qualitative research in a non-profit corporate setting
using ethnography. It is my hope to create eventual and actual change in the way
florists and potential floral students view floral design education. It is for that reason
that I have chosen to write an autobiographical ethnography for my research. I have
chosen this method because I believe that sharing my story, along with others that I
work closely with, will enhance the reality of the florists every day situation by
providing thick rich description of our experiences. It is very important to me that the
research that I conduct be very real and personal. This study focuses on the reality of
individual situations. I want to be able to share my experience in my own voice in
order to appeal to an audience in a way that would not be possible through more
traditional methods of study. Autoethnographies include, evocative narratives and
first-person accounts andfocus is on the self, the personal experience that warrants
narration (Mills, 2014, p. 94). It is my hope that as I have focused on my personal
narrative I have been able to explore the importance of the every-day use of floral
design education. I want to take a look at the floral design culture, and understand
how the level of education that a florist receives affects culture. Mills explains that
not only does ethnographic work help us understand culture but, Ethnographic work
is the concept of culture (Mills, 2014, p. 93).
Ethnographies are accessible to readers because they can see a story from a
narrative perspective, and therefore relate in a very real way. Some critics of
ethnography believe that the author can come across as narcissistic and may become

Floral Design Education

to self-involved in the narration (Wall, 2006, p. 8). Others suggest that the author

29

may get too involved in writing about themselves and sharing their own stories, and
neglect to connect the importance of the stories to the data and draw conclusions and
meaning from them (Chang, 2008, p. 55). Throughout this study I have maintained an
awareness of these potential pitfalls and have used outside resources such as a critical
friends, member checking, and my community of practice to make certain that I do
not fall into these snares.
Setting
The research has been conducted in a workplace setting. The specific
workplace is a large non-profit organization that employs an in house floral
department. The floral department maintains three full time floral designers to
uphold the high demand of daily work required. I am one of the three floral
designers. These three florists will be study participants. They work closely with one
another on a daily basis to fulfill their work orders in a timely manner.
There is no hierarchal order between the designers, but they each hold the
same position and work orders are assigned on a rotational basis. The designers that
will participate are required to provide quality and timely service in providing
inconspicuous design support in a dignified and wholesome manner for all
components of indoor floral needs for the organization. The designers are expected to
maintain and produce the highest quality floral designs, be committed to meeting
deadlines and operate within approved budget parameters. They are required to keep
current on design trends in the industry, prepare material and containers utilizing
industry best practices, maintain and organize workspace and inventory areas in an

Floral Design Education

30

efficient and clean manner, and maintain budget parameters by purchasing materials
and accurately coding receipts and invoices. Clients include high profile clients and
dignitaries. Often the designs are broadcast on television internationally.

Essentially the work that is required of these three florists is at a much higher
standard than most of the general industry. They are not filling work orders over and
over that come in through a wire service, or even designs that are dictated by an
owner or manager. Each design created is unique and individual, and the highest
quality and design is expected. There is an immense amount of pressure to perform
to a high standard of excellence in design and deadlines.
In addition to the three designers there are also between eight and ten other
co-workers that share the design space. These include and office manager,
administrative assistant, plant care specialists, inventory specialists and temporary
workers during times of high volume work. On a very regular basis the designers are
required to form teams with these co-workers and lead the work on a large stage
designs or event functions.
Participants
The participants in this study are myself, and my two co-workers at the large
non-profit in house floral department. Each designer comes from varying age, work
experience, personal and parental educational experiences, and economic
backgrounds. Figure 1 describes some basic information about the three main
participants in the study.

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31

Participant 1

Participant 2

Participant 3

25 to 34

25 to 34

55 to 64

10

20 or more

B.S. Horticulture
with Emphasis in
Floral Design,
Utah Certified
Floral Designer,
Certified Floral
designer through
AIFD, AIFD
designer, any
workshops that
become available I
try to attend and
participate in.

B.S.
Interdisciplinary
Studies - Emphasis
in Floral Design,
Interior Design and
Business
Floral Design
Classes- Utah State
University
Indoor Plants
Classes- Utah State
University

What is your
education level?
(High School,
Associates,
Bachelors, post
graduate)

Some graduate
school

Graduated from
college

Graduated from
high school

What was your


high school your
GPA?

3.6 - 4.0

3.6 - 4.0

3.1 - 3.5

If you attended
college what was
your GPA?

3.6 - 4.0

2.6 - 3.0

Not Applicable

Please list any


degrees that your
father received.

Associate's Degree

Bachelor's Degree

High School

What is your age


group?

What is your
work experience
in floral design?
(in years)

Please list any


formal floral
design training
you have received
including
workshops,
classes and/or
degrees.

Adult Education
Series of Floral
Design;
Occupational
Center (School);
Certificates;
Workshops

32

Floral Design Education


Please list any
degrees that your
Mother received.

How would you


define your
general economic
status growing
up?

How would you


define your
current economic
status?

Associate's Degree

Bachelors Degree

High School

Lower Class

Middle class

Middle class

Lower Class

Poor

Upper Middle
Class

Figure 1. Preliminary Survey

I have also included information from an interview of the manager and


assistant manager of the floral services department. The manager, with the help of
the assistant manager oversees all of the individuals mentioned above. It is important
to note that the manager of this particular floral department is not a designer, nor does
the individual have any background in floral design, but has managed the department
for over 11 years and looks at the department through a business lens. The assistant
manager who has been with the department for 9 years comes from a horticulture
background with a bachelors degree in that field.
In addition to the main study participants, I interviewed three experts in the
field of floral design education. Each of them brings a different view of floral design
education, and therefore provide valuable information to enhance this study. These
three designers bring extreme experience, and understanding about floral design
education from a national and international perspective.

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33

The first expert in the field is J. Schwanke, AIFD. J is a third generation florist

who was born at a floral convention. He graduated from Midland College with a
bachelors degree in Marketing as well as Public Relations. As a teen-ager, J trained
for his career in flowers at the Cliff Mann School of Floral Technology in Denver
Colorado and the Phil Rulloda School of Advance Floral Design in Phoenix Arizona.
In 1994 he left his familys floral business to begin a career as a floral marketing
consultant and industry spokesperson (www.funwithj.com/biography, 2013).
J currently travels across the country giving workshops and classes to florists.
He has taught floral design in every state in the nation. Critics, sponsors and
attendees agree J Schwanke is one of the most sought after motivational presenters
and floral educators in the entire industry. Schwanke has presented at countless
Associations, Wholesale Operations, National Markets, and conventions throughout
his successful career in the floral industry (www.funwithj.com/biography, 2013). J
also runs his own website and floral design channel ubloom.com, where individuals
can learn floral design skills through online tutorials and videos.
The second expert, Leanne Kesler AIFD, is the Director, President, and with
her husband David, co-owner of Floral Design Institute, Inc. Together, Leanne and
David have built Floral Design Institute into the largest privately held Floral Design
School in the world. Leanne has been an active designer, speaker, educator and floral
business consultant for over 25 years. She has served as Retail Director, Education
Coordinator, and past President for the Northwest Florists Association, President of
the Oregon and Southwest Washington Unit of Teleflora. Leanne is an accredited
member of the American Institute of Floral Designers, AIFD. She is also a member

Floral Design Education

of; the Society of American Florists, the American Floral Marketing Council, the

34

Floral Marketing Association, and the Northwest Florists Association. She is an


associate member of Florist Transworld Delivery (FTD), and Teleflora. Leanne
creates and designs the educational classes and programs at Floral Design Institute
(www.floraldesigninstitute.com, 2013).
The third expert, Ren van Rems, AIFD has traveled around the world
sharing his flower knowledge for over twenty years. Ren is a Dutch born designer
and educator. He has lived in California ever since he started there as an exchange
student from Amsterdam, Holland. After attending Horticultural Institutes in
Aalsmeer and the Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam, he studied in London only to
bring his design talents to the United States (http://www.renevanrems.com, 2013).
Data Gathering Methods and Rationale
The main source of my data gathering has been through interviews and
journaling. I have conducted an in depth interview with each of my participants. I
have answered the same questions that I asked my participants through a journaling
interview I then transcribed this data and looked for coding and themes to identify
commonalities and larger topics that have addressed my research question.
I have also relied heavily on my own journaling of experiences. Through the
thick rich description that I have gleaned from my journaling activities, I have been
able to identify and interpret themes between my own experience as well as that of
my co-workers. I have also drawn information from a letter that I wrote upon request
from my former professor at BYU-Idaho. The school was looking at the importance
of the floral design program and making decisions about keeping the program at the

Floral Design Education

35

time. The letter is a reflection of how the program influenced me as a designer in the
industry.
Data Analysis
After I collected the data, I analyzed it by using coding and thick rich
description. Through analyzing the data I assigned meaning to the pieces as I
label, code, and categorize; build analytic descriptions; compare and contrast; find

patterns; construct theses; and consider alternatives (Rossman & Rallis, 2012, p. 35).
As I transcribed the interviews I used thick rich description by noting specifics
about the surroundings, the time of day and physical attributes of the surroundings the
interviews, and noted body language. I reviewed the data multiple times to pick up
on patterns and themes that emerged from the data that has been collected. From this
information, I was able to compare the reactions and feelings of the participants with
cultural norms about the floral design industry.
Validity and trustworthiness
In my research I have employed three methods to maintain validity in this
study. The first of the methods has been maintaining constant communication with a
critical friend and activate a community of practice to ensure validity. I have
consistently discussed and worked with my professor and writing group to maintain a
level of trustworthiness in my data collection and writing. Secondly I have employed
data triangulation. I have collected data through interviews, my researchers journal,
and surveys to gather important information. I have transcribed the interviews and
used member checking as a source of validity. Each of the participants have

Floral Design Education

36

reviewed the transcriptions and made certain that the words that they said denote the
proper meaning and understanding post-transcription.
Ethical considerations
It is incredibly important that I have upheld the utmost in ethical uprightness
in this study. I have consistently maintained awareness of the potential sensitive
nature of the information shared by the participants. I have protected the
confidentiality of the participants whose livelihoods depend upon their
confidentiality.

The subject matter for this work is potentially sensitive and great lengths have
been taken to avoid any embarrassment or unwanted exposure. I have taken great
measures to protect the anonymity of both the participants and also the corporation in
which the study takes place. Each of the experts agreed to allow me to use their
names and information publicly. All of the records have been protected by passwords
and locked files. Each participant has signed a consent form before participating in
the study to make sure that they understood the requirements and ramifications of the
study. The study has been reviewed by Westminster Colleges Institutional Review
Board and cleared for research.

Floral Design Education

Chapter IV: Data Analysis and Findings

37

Introduction
This chapter is an ethnographic reflection and evaluation of the data that I
have collected through my own journaling efforts, interviews with the participants
and experts in the industry. I have relied heavily on my own self-rumination, and
many of the findings that have blossomed are based on my own thoughts.
The goal of this research project has been to answer the question how does
formal education influence the everyday work of a floral designer? Through
analyzing the data it soon became clear that it influences them greatly. All
participants explicitly stated that education of some kind not only influenced them as
a designer, but that it was important, needed, and sought after at some level. When
asked the question, do you feel that the education that you received influences your
work on a day-to-day basis, participants answered, yes, it was a very basic
foundation (personal communication, January 16, 2014), the answer is an
unequivocal yes! (K. Larsen, personal interview, February 1, 2014), and, yes,
definitely, I firmly believe every floral designer should take a class on how to design
(personal communication, January 27, 2014).
As I began my interviewing and journaling process I was unprepared to
collect the incredible wealth of information that I received. I found not only how it
affects the daily work of florists, but that it is woven into their lives so integrally that
formal education is inseparable from work experience. In my own journaling I shared
the thought,

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38

Does my formal education influence my everyday work as a designer? The


answer is an unequivocal yes! It influences my work in every way and so
many ways that it is impossible to delineate between the ways it does and

does not. It is weaved into the very fabric of who I am as a designer...there is


no question in my mind that my everyday work is changed in profound ways
because of my four year degree, and certifications. The list of ways that it
influences me is so profound and extensive that it is nearly impossible to list
them (K. Larsen, Journal, January 2014).
This separation of work and life experience when compared to formal
education has proven challenging. In another journal notation I reflected, ... how
difficult it is to separate what I learned in school with what I have learned through
work experience and training (K. Larsen, Journal, January 2014).
However puzzling it has been to separate the two, it is readily apparent that neither
work experience, nor education alone, is strong enough to define a successful florist.
Every participant explicitly stated that both carry great importance. For example, one
participant shared:
I do not think that they can be separated. But I do strongly believe that they
need and must go hand in hand. One without the other is too weak to make a
successful florist. It is so important that education incorporate hands on
instruction, and it is important that you never stop learning in the workplace
(personal communication, January 27, 2014).
In the research I did not attempt to categorize what kind of education was
influencing the participants and interviewees because each persons experiences vary

Floral Design Education

so widely that it would be impossible to delineate what specific education that they

39

are referring to. For the purposes of this study formal education refers to any
classroom, internship experience, degree, certification, or continuing education that
was experienced by the participants respectively. See the chart on page 33 for
specifics relating to each participant.
As I analyzed the data there was an overwhelming amount of information
about how education influences the everyday work of a floral designer. In total I
counted 130 specific ways that a florist is influenced by education. Through thorough
examination, each of those ways have been funneled into three broad themes. The
themes are: one, basic design and industry skills and knowledge; two, business skills,
professionalism and career advancement; and three personal growth and achievement.
Each of these themes are based on the frequency, repetition and emphasis placed by
the participants, and have several subthemes that support the overall topic.
Findings
Basic design, and industry skills and knowledge. It is a basic assumption
that if you are going to school to learn about floral design, you will focus a great deal
of energy on understanding design, industry skills and knowledge. It is evident that
formal education would influence these aspects of a florists career. I was not
however prepared for the volume of information that I would receive about how
much it influences a designer on a day-to-day basis in profound and specific ways.
Leann Kesler, floral design educator and co-owner at the Floral Design Institute
explained the importance of understanding basic design and industry skills and
knowledge.

40

Floral Design Education

Education is the difference between becoming a successful professional

florist, and being a craftsperson that can do flowers because they have artistic,
natural instincts. The difference between being a truly successful
professional florist is the education. That is the foundation, the
backbonejust because you can make it pretty doesn't mean that it will be
stable, or stay together, live, all of that. And so, I kind of see the difference
between the professional and the crafter as being that education. Both can be
doing equally as fabulous beautiful artistic things, but if it's not stable, long
lasting, basically proper, then it just goes back to being play time, craft time
(L. Kesler, personal communication, January 20, 2014).
It is with this understanding of the importance of basic design and care and
handling education that these topics have been categorized in three groups: The Very
Basics/Mechanics and Techniques, The Principles and Elements of Design, and
Flower and Plant Knowledge.
The very basics/mechanics and techniques. The first finding that was very
prevalent in the literature is the notion that formal education can give you the very
basics of knowledge, techniques and practices for the floral industry. Essentially I
found that the basic foundation of mechanics and techniques is an indispensable part
of the education process. Though defining very basics is a bit challenging, to me as
a more seasoned designer, these are the little things that I take so much for granted
because they are a part of me. It is amazing how often florists, or those in the
industry miss out on even the very basic education that allows for success. In my
own journaling I reflected on this notion.

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41

Today I have been thinking a lot about the most basic things that I learned in
school that I take for granted on a daily basis. A few months ago when we

had our new seasonal assistants begin work, I asked my assistant to soak some
foam for me. She had learned floral design through her daughter and other
friends and had some background and experience and so I did not think to
instruct her in the proper methods of soaking. When I came over to the sink I
found her forcing the floral foam under the water instead of allowing it to soak
in on its own. I know that this is a simple thing, but a very important one
when it comes to the longevity of flowers. It is certain that most floral shops
would teach their employees the proper method, but in this case it was not so.
It is not just this specific example that I think of, but so many small things that
seem second nature to me that I would not have a basic understanding of if I
had not had the schooling. It could mean anything from taping foam into
vases, gridding a vase, understanding flower food and how it works in all its
varieties etc (K. Larsen, Journal, January 2014).
This simple story was only one of many that I observed through ought this
project. The importance of understanding the very basics of design is not something
that I can over emphasize. This understanding is often what will allow a florist to
thrive and succeed, or fail. Ren van Rems, floral design expert and world wide
educator, expressed his view on the importance of learning the basics of floral
design.
I think education is very important to standardize the basics of what you
need to learn to be in florist today... But, how can you do a rose vase, how can

Floral Design Education

you do an arrangement, how can you do a basic sympathy and so that when

42

you walk into a florist and they want a funeral piece, and you say, "well I have
never done this before (R. van Rems, personal communication, January 30,
2014).

There is a shocking amount of work that goes out of floral shops that is
shoddy and unstable. Furthermore, there are an incredible amount of florists
improperly caring and treating flowers because of a lack of, or antiquity of
information and education. These are the very basics that are so vital to success of a
florist. These technical skills can also have bearing on a designer in deep and
profound ways, such as professional success and employment opportunities. In the
letter to BYU-Idaho I expressed the important part that the basics of floral design had
played in my career,
the Horticulture program with emphasis in floral design allowed me to
learn the basic technical skills that I need to succeed within my chosen
profession. Before I took the basic floral design class I had no previous
experience with floral design, but I had a deep desire to learn more about the
floral design industry and become a part of it. There is little to no chance that
I would have been given the opportunity to learn more in a reputable shop
without the basic skills that I learned in the beginning classes. The program
provided a beginning point for me, which is incredibly difficult to find in the
industry without any kind of experience (K. Larsen, letter to BYU-Idaho,
July 28, 2013).

Floral Design Education

After only taking a few floral design classes I was able to procure an

43

internship with one of the premier wedding florists in Salt Lake City Utah. Without
my connection with the school and the basic knowledge I received from the class I
know I would never have been able to have that kind of an opportunity. Without
those basic skills they simply would not have taken a chance on me.
It is interesting to note that even when you are in the process of learning the
very basics, a designer may or may not see the value in it at the beginning. One of
the participants expressed the following.
I thought back in the day when I was taking classes, why am I even taking this
class? I know it is important to learn the basics, but the style of the teacher
was so outdated, and I thought is it even worth it to go to class or to read the
chapter we are supposed to read? ...Because it is not my style, but looking
back on that right now I think that once you learn the basics of how to make a
corsage, it helps so much, you can grow from the basic stuff you need to
know, everyone needs to know. (personal communication, January 16,
2014).
Essentially the small and simple things can have an immense impact on the
every day work and career of a floral designer. If foam is soaked improperly flowers
will die. If the flowers die it leads to customer dissatisfaction and loss of product and
business. The data clearly shows that the very basics are important.
The principles and elements of design. Whether or not a person regards floral
design as an art, or as a simple act of putting flowers in a vase, it is hard to argue that
there are not basic rules that create aesthetic pleasure when they are adhered to.

Floral Design Education

These rules are called the principles and elements of design. They are the basic

44

stepping-stones and tools that every artist in every century has followed to achieve
aesthetic beauty. They are fundamental guidelines to aesthetic design that govern
the organization of the elements and materials in accordance with the laws of nature"
(Butler, Fowler, Gilliam, Johnson, McKinley, Money-Collins, Moss, Murray,
Pamper, Scace, Shelton, Verheijen, Whalen, 2005, p. 97). In effect; they are the
recipe and the ingredients that guide a florist in making design choices. Throughout
the data the principles and elements repeatedly turned up as key points in how
education affected the everyday work of a floral designer. In my own letter to BYUIdaho I shared the following,
the program taught me the theory behind design. This is of utmost
importance to me in my every day work, and something that is desperately
lacking in the industry as a whole. The principles and elements of design are
what set apart a successful and reputable floral designer, and these principles
and elements are most often learned in a formal education setting (K. Larsen,
letter to BYU-Idaho, July 28, 2013).
I feel that in all of the education that I have received, the principles and
elements of design may be the portion that has influenced me the most as a designer.
In addition, every participant and interviewee shared at some level the importance of
the principles and elements of design. In this example, the participant mentioned the
value in understanding scale, proportion and color, and how she felt that the
education that she received in her floral design classes allowed her to understand
those principles and elements of design:

Floral Design Education

...I think when your designing, the first thing you really kind of think of is

45

what impact you want to have on the room, do you want, I mean scale...size of
arrangement. I dont really know what I am going to make until I get the
flowers. And color is a big thing to me too, being able to choose flowers and
colors that go together well, and that are cohesive with each other is another
big influence... (personal communication, January 16, 2014).
Understanding the principles and elements of design can have an incredible
impact on not only how one designs, but also on a career and at a performance level.
One manager shared how she felt that as she has observed employees over the years
she has seen how the principles and elements of design allow designers to perform at
a higher level or competency.
I have seen a huge difference with people who have just attended just
high school or even community college versus bachelors degree just in their
wealth of knowledge that they get but more specifically with floral. When
somebody has gone through the training to be certified or to be tested in that
more than just a singular class in college, it shows more in their daily work
through the elements and principles of design down to mechanics and
prepping (personal communication, January 15, 2014).
The manager continued to explain that from her point of view, florists are able
to actually design rather than simply copy an arrangement. When florists have an
understanding of what the principles and elements of design are and how to use them
it allows them to actually design, and when they can design, that is when they are set
apart as professionals.

Floral Design Education

I think what I have seen the most, is in the actual output of the designs that

46

reference them, but I dont see our crew copying them necessarily. And I like
that, because that means it is always fresh and new, it might just be a slight
twist on something (personal communication, January 15, 2014).
Leeanne Kesler expressed how she felt that understanding the principles and
elements of design allowed florists to be more than a copycat.
I often times think the one without education ends up being more of just a
copycat. They can only get so far until they don't have anybody to copy again
and they reach a road block and they can't go any further unless they back up
and get their foundation education (L. Kesler, personal communication,
January 20, 2014).
In my own journaling I reflected often about how much I draw upon the
principles and elements of design whether cognitively or not. I remunerated on the
specifics of the principles and elements in relation to a large silk plant installation that
I was creating in conjunction with an interior designer:
As I was working with the interior designer, whether consciously or not, I
was drawing upon those basic principles and elements of design when we
were making decisions about what plant materials to incorporate, and what
design style to settle on (K. Larsen, Journal, January 2014).
Every single day in my position I draw upon that knowledge, and yet there are
a great majority of florists that have not had formal training on what these principles
and elements are and how they impact the every day work of a florist. As a florist I
am constantly shocked at the lack of understanding of these basic principles and

Floral Design Education

elements. Most florists use them without being able to identify them. Others

47

completely ignore them all together. I feel it is one of the greatest tragedies in the
floral industry, because if only florists understood these simple principles and
elements on a basic level, we could improve and change the industry in very real and
profound ways.
Flower and plant knowledge. On a very fundamental level, florists must have
an understanding of flower and plant names, lasting qualities, morphology and
longevity. This is one factor that can have an immense impact on the success or
demise of a florist.
if youre good designer you also automatically know the morphology of the
flower the analytics of the flower meaning the biology of the flower which
means you know when something is good to use or bad to useas in old. That
immediately impacts who you are as a designer because God forbid you send
dead flowers you dont know uh how certain flowers respond after they've
been cut and if you send those flowers out and they only last a day you wont
be in business no matter how beautiful if is when it gets there (R. van Rems,
personal communication, January 30, 2014).
Most formal school settings will have classes based entirely on this topic. The
participants consistently shared the immense impact that this knowledge has for them
on a daily basis.
This is one of the areas of my education that has influenced me profoundly on
a daily basis. Every single time I choose to put flowers together in a vase I draw on

Floral Design Education

48

the basics of understanding flower names and longevity. In my letter to BYU-Idaho I


stated,
The program has provided me with knowledge far beyond basic flower
arranging. Understanding plant identification, and how plants and flowers
function on a biological scale has impacted me profoundly. Knowing the
proper use and care of indoor plants has been an incredible asset that most
florists do not have. My indoor plant care knowledge has been a direct result
of a specific class that I took within the program. The true and proper care
and handling of flowers has made an immense impact on my skills within the
industry. There are many schools of thought on how to properly care and
handle flowers, but I was taught the proper methods and have been able to
educate many florists who have been treating flowers improperly for years
(K. Larsen, letter to BYU-Idaho, July 28, 2013).
As it is with any workplace training in a floral shop, designers will learn a lot
about this topic. However, there are so many things that they often do not have the
opportunity to explore in depth in nearly the same manner. In my education I was
able to learn specifically about how plants and flowers live and grow on a cellular
level. This understanding has been fundamental in my growth as a designer. In
addition to flowers, we studied plants in general, and specifically indoor plants. My
journaling exposed the following thoughts,

As a part of my Horticulture Degree I was required to take many classes about


how plants work, live and grow. The specific class that I think has really
helped me so much as a florist is Interiorscaping. We were required to

Floral Design Education

memorize the Latin and Common names of interior plants, as well as their

49

light requirements and premium growing conditions. There is no limit to how


many times I have been grateful for the basic plant knowledge that I received
through my classes in school. I have found that there are very few florists who
have been trained properly when it comes to understanding indoor plants. I
see such a lack of basic understanding for florists in this area. It is surprising
because so many florists sell plants in their shops, and even contract to
maintain insteriorscapes without proper knowledge of how to care for the
plants, or what they even are (K. Larsen, Journal, January 2014).
When asked to list some things that influenced her on a daily basis that she
learned in her education, one participant stated,
I think just having a knowledge of general flowers, and how long they last,
and when they open this is what it looks like and, I mean putting arrangements
together that have to last a week, do you put them in water, or do you put
them in floral foam, or do you put them in a container that you can put water
in, so just basic knowledge of how long flowers last... (personal
communication, January 16, 2014).
On another level, understanding the lasting quality and flower names and
availability can impact a designers every day work in their vendor relationship and
professionalism within the industry. Another journal entry explains,
I have also thought a lot about the understanding I have about where to
purchase the materials needed for the intended projects. It is very true that
much of that knowledge has come from work experience. It is also true that I

Floral Design Education

would have never had a complete understanding of how to purchase at a

50

wholesale level without the very basics that I learned in my schooling early
on. More than my early training however, I feel like the formal education I
have received since becoming a professional has also helped me with those
vendor connections on more than one occasion (K. Larsen, Journal, January
2014).
It is hard to overemphasize the importance of this very basic understanding of
plant and flower knowledge. The intensive flower identification classes that I
participated in as a part of my degree are of vital importance to me currently as a
designer. Knowing the names (common and Latin), lasting qualities, and availability
of flowers is one of the things that set a florist apart as a professional. This flower
knowledge influences the everyday work of a floral designer in profound ways.

Business skills. Business is the heart of the floral industry. Without business,
there would be no floral design. Unfortunately, as a general rule florists receive so
little education on how to run and understand a successful floral business. Ren
emphasized that floral design is driven by business.
Obviously businesses are created to produce profitthe bottom line is floral
design is a way of merchandising flowershow to create added elements to
flowers that you otherwise would not have (R. van Rems, personal
communication, January 30, 2014).
The data shows clearly that education influences the daily work of a florist
from a business perspective in three main ways, which are: a higher level of

Floral Design Education

professionalism, an understanding of business sense, and by creating valuable

51

employees.
Professionalism. In any business professionalism is key to becoming
successful. When students of floral design take their craft seriously through
education, it allows them to have the key of professionalism that will bring them
accomplishment in business. Education is a crucial part of that professionalism.
Leeanne Kesler shared, I think that education is the only true difference between
the professional and the hobbyist (L. Kesler, personal communication, January 20,
2014)

One manager shared his feelings about the importance of becoming the best
professionally through education, and how that can influence business:

I think in anyones life, regardless if their going to college or what, if they


want to be the best they want to be, they have to work hard at whatever they
do, and sometimes it hurts, it really does, it takes lack of sleep, it takes hard
work, it takes whatever it is, but if you really want to succeed in life, and you
want to be the best of your industry, then you work hard (BK & JL, personal
communication, January 15, 2014).
Another participant shared how an education, and specifically procuring a
college education, allows others to look at floral design as a way to show a potential
employer their commitment to their work. This kind of commitment could
potentially lead to better employment and professionalism. I think in todays
world having a degree would be greatly beneficial, as that is what they are looking

Floral Design Education

for. They want to see that someone is dedicated to their craft (LD, personal

52

communication, January 27, 2014).


It is not uncommon for me to have people ask me where I come up with all of
the ideas that I use in my daily work. I think it is generally an assumption that
florists are just born talented or have an eye for things. While I feel that some portion
of that is true the reality is that I have spent an enormous amount of time and effort
dedicating my life to understanding floral design. So, when I receive this question, I
generally respond by telling them that I studied floral design for four years and have
spent an incredible amount of time since studying and learning anything I can about
my profession. In my own experience people are generally impressed when they
learn that I have had a bachelors degree, and I believe that they look at me with more
respect and more of a professional because of that education. In my journaling I
emphasized this notion; I think that because as a whole the florists are more
educated there, the public looks at them as a little bit more professional, and it seems
to be a more valid profession sometimes because of that competence (K. Larsen,
personal interview, February 1, 2014). The ability to tell others that I have received
that education also gives me validity and confidence in a way that helps me to
maintain my competence in the industry. I continued to write, I also feel like it gives
me so much more confidence in my own professionalism and stance as a florists in
the professional world (K. Larsen, Journal, January 2014).
Business sense. Formal education can change the way florists understand how
to run and operate a successful business. Throughout my journaling process and
interviews I came upon three ways that business sense is influenced by this formal

Floral Design Education

53

education. These three ways are choosing smarter business practices, understanding
strengths and weaknesses, and designing smarter.
Choosing smarter business practices. As important as understanding design

is, if it doesnt translate to good business practices, it really doesnt matter in the end.
In response to the question, do you feel that formal floral design education is
necessary to becoming a successful florist, Ren van Rems responded:
I think it is necessary to become a successful florist, because there are so
many variables in this business to make it successful from a financial
perspective so when you say successful florist, obviously successful as in
everybody loves my work and everything thats great, but the part we need
to focus on is what are you going do with this information and this skill to
make a living? a lot of people are all about the art and the touchy an the
feely and the oh my God its so beautiful and the you know what if you dont
make any money thats going to go away and so I've been really focused on
"successful" meaning can you run the business or can you run your own
business or can you make $20-$25 an hour for a company as a designer?...I
think the other element that is really important to us in education and formal
education and how it structures you, the designer, is that you know the cost of
goods sold and cost of goods sold is something that most designers just dont
want to deal with (personal communication, January 30, 2014).
J Schwanke, floral design expert and educator, shared his view of
understanding a business model and how it can change a florists entire business. He
pointed out the influence a college education can have on choosing smarter business

Floral Design Education

practices, and how it specifically relates to special event coordinators:

54

Special event coordinators, I mean, as a group of people are college


educated, so they are easier to talk to, so they make more money. So they are
eating the lunch of the Mom and Pop flower shop when it comes to the model
they've created for their benefit. And I mean, when you look at a special
event coordinator, it is a smart business model... I mean you know, that
business model makes a lot more sense, and the florist can't seem to grasp that
because they're going to put that extra tulip in that arrangement that wasn't
paid for, because it is going to make it prettier. And someone is going to tell
them that they really like it (personal communication, January 31, 2014).
Understanding strengths and weaknesses. Education allows students to have
a much more expanded view of the business possibilities and opportunities available
to them. In J Schwankes interview, he indicated that education allows students the
opportunities to understand their own strengths and weaknesses, and identify what
place on the floral business world they can fill.
When your choosing this career in floristry, are you the business manager
who can run a flower shop? Are you the designer who stands behind the
table? Or, are you the salesperson who can sell it? And I think it is very rare
for those three attributes to fold into one person and allow someone to be
extremely successful (J Schwanke, personal communication, January 31,
2014).
I feel deeply that my education and internship helped me to identify my place
in the industry as a designer rather than a businessperson. I know that my strengths

Floral Design Education

lie in designing and creativity rather than in business practices. That reality check

55

came to me as a student and a recent graduate working in small businesses. Without


the education that I received I feel that I would have mistakenly attempted to run a
business that would have inevitably failed.
Design smarter. When a florist has a good grasp on understanding business
they are much more likely to design in a way that allows for a greater profit rather
than simply making pretty arrangements. Understanding good principles and
elements of design allows a florist to create in a way that uses fewer materials, and
provides a higher perceived value because of their design techniques. The same
educated designer will also refrain from adding superfluous blooms, or overpriced
flowers to simply enhance the design without the cost benefit. Ren van Rems
emphasized this idea:
And so yeah and if you need 5 more flowers, what the hell put them in. No!
Youre out of time and out of money step away from the tableand it sounds
really hard ass, but its reality you know, its ah um so um to me that an
education yeah, we want to make beautiful things and I get excited when I see
gorgeous flowers and I see gorgeous containers but when you have an
arrangement thats big enough to hold in one hand and its $125 you have to
be one heck of a salesman to sell that for $125. And if you take a $45 dollar
container and you put calla lilies in it and five cymbidiums, and you know,
gloriosa lilies, and nobody knows that those flowers are much more
expensive than daisies...and so that's formal training will help an aspiring

Floral Design Education

designer to think on their feet when they're working (R. van Rems, personal

56

communication, January 30, 2014).


I have observed first hand the viewpoint of designers that they do not really
care what materials they have to add into the arrangement. They will do it if it will
make the customer happy, or to receive that personal satisfaction that, it is a
beautiful arrangement. When a designer truly understands from a business
perspective the cost that comes from over-stuffing a design, that is what allows them
to move away from being an amateur to taking responsibility in business. Leanne
Kesler supported this idea when she shared the following,
I think they, (florists who have received an education,) take a more
responsible approach to it. The person who will put forth the effort to get an
education, is also gong to work harder to make sure that they stay on top of
trends, do things the best with the latest techniques and all of that. Hence, not
only will a student who is educated refrain from designing irresponsibly, they
will also design is a smarter and more efficient manner that is trend forward
(L. Kesler, personal communication, January 20, 2014).
This idea reiterates the information that Collin Straub found when he studied
the European flower culture and trends. He stressed the importance of being able to
create flower arrangements with fewer flowers, but with a higher perceived value.
The only way to achieve that kind of design understanding is through education.
Again, he stated, The most significant issue for floral designers, as employers, is a
lack of design skills in employees that would allow the designer and retailer to create

Floral Design Education

smarter designs, using fewer materials and utilizing non-traditional horticultural

57

materials (Straub, 2009, p.1).


Overall understanding business sense is one of the most profound ways in
which education can influence the everyday work of a floral designer. It allows them
to be smarter in their business practices, understand their strengths and weaknesses
and design in a way that provides for a higher profit margin and more perceived value
for the customer.
Valuable employees. Consistently participants shared that having formal
education influenced the level of value as an employee. This value is categorized into
three categories: sharing knowledge, skill level, and team strength.
Sharing knowledge. In my interview with my supervisors there was a vast
sense of the value that education provides in the workplace. My supervisors
emphasized that even one educated employee greatly affected and enhanced the
overall work of the team because they were able to share the education that they had
received with the other team members.
They are also sharing their knowledge with their co workers and thats is
the biggest impact I see amongst the whole team, is that someone who is
highly educated in whatever field it is, tend to be able to not just benefit
themselves, but the organization theyre in (BK & JL, personal
communication, January 15, 2014).
In my own journaling I wrote about a conversations that I had with my
supervisors about my role in the workplace in sharing my education with others,

Floral Design Education

I was told about how she has observed me over the past four and half years

58

and seen how much I have grown as a designer, and she felt that a large part
of that has had to do with the education that I have received since I have
started working here... They explained to me how they have seen me return
from these educational opportunities with more invigoration and excitement
for the industry, and watched as I taught my co-workers what I had learned.
(K. Larsen, Journal, January 2014).
Another way in which education creates more valuable employees is through
the ability to create arrangements with fewer flowers and higher perceived value.
This value comes through understanding the principles and elements of design along
with design styles and options for the customers. One participant shared her view
about the importance of having an education about design styles as a florist.
I think it is important also in education, because a lot of...florists are not educated, so
all they know are the roundy moundies and people are never exposed to anything
more than the roundy moundy (personal communication, January 16, 2014).
She went on to explain that if a customer is exposed to more options than
massed flowers through their florist, they will be able to see the worth of the
arrangements and explore their options as a consumer. If a florist can use the
principles and elements of design to create an arrangement with fewer flowers and
higher perceived value, then they are clearly a more valuable employee. Being
educated enough in your own field to enable communication with a customer about
the possibilities of design leads to better business practices and customer service.
Any designer with that level of understanding is valuable to an employer.

Floral Design Education

59

Skill level. So much of the floral design education available today focuses on

specific skills and techniques needed to design successfully. I remember distinctly a


conversation I had with a manager soon after I graduated with my bachelors degree
and began my professional career. He told me, The more skills and capabilities you
have, the more valuable you will be as an employee. This was the same employer
who was shocked at my level of understanding and knowledge because of the
education I received. I consistently received compliments and exclamations from
him, and moved up quickly in his business because of the technical skills that I had
learned in school. My current manager shared her perspective of employee skill in
the following statement:
Id like to add also that there is a huge difference, in the daily work, I dont
know if ethic is the right word, just in the daily organization and prioritization
of work load with someone who is educated in whatever their specific area is,
versus someone you have to bring in and train on the job (personal
communication, January 15, 2014).
Team strength. The additional skill level along with the ability to share
knowledge with others brings team strength to a group of employees. Both
supervisors strongly agreed that educated employees brought a different kind of
strength to a work team in a way that they could not without the same education:
I think it, (education,) brings great strength to the team, one of the greatest
things is that when projects do arise and stuff, they are ready to meet the
demand, they know...what is expected out of them, and I think it is so
important, it kind of helps in the management end of things to know that we

Floral Design Education

60

can give an assignment to someone, a deadline that needs to be met, and they

know the things that need to take place, and they can take the lead, they know
how to be a leader, and get stuff accomplished because of the extra education
that they have too (personal communication, January 15, 2014).
This team strength provides great value to an employer who is looking for
someone to lead and accomplish tasks without constant supervision and additional on
the job training. Overall education creates more valuable employees. Education
influences florists in a way that allows them to flourish through sharing knowledge
with one another and creating greater team strength through their skill levels.
Personal growth and achievement. As I began my research I expected to
find that formal education influenced a floral designer in the way that they design,
and in relationship to business practices. I was less prepared to find out that it also
provides a great sense of personal growth and achievement. These genres of personal
achievement have been split into three main topics, practical life skills and selfconfidence, lifelong learning, and life satisfaction/calling.
Practical life skills/self confidence. Throughout this research I have chosen
not to focus to define the difference between a bachelor degree, learning certificate or
floral design schools. However, this section of the research focused mainly on the
benefits of receiving a higher education. In my journaling I shared the following
about how I feel my bachelors degree has changed me as a person, more than just as
a designer:
...The liberal education that I received has changed who I am as a person, and
therefore changed my design work. I feel like I have a different outlook on

Floral Design Education

61

life because I left home, and pursued an education. The experience of gaining
a Bachelors degree, and now a Master Degree has changed me. I look at my
profession in a completely different light, and I feel like I understand it and
appreciate it so much more because of that. That understanding and attitude

affects the way that I design. I take a more holistic approach to my day-to-day
work because I understand that the way I treat my profession is a reflection on
who I am as a person (K. Larsen, Journal, January 2014).
J Schwanke agreed that florists are influenced greatly by the opportunity to
leave home and attend school and receive a formal education. He reflects on the
realities and practicalities that come with a more liberal education. When asked what
specific ways he felt that education influenced the everyday work of a floral designer
he responded:
I think it makes them smarter...in all aspects of their life... most of the people
that we deal with in the flower industry... do not have higher than a high
school educationthat hampers them in so many ways. Literally, you would
not believe how much time we spend teaching florists how to operate
computer so they can watch the uBloom episodes they purchased You don't
know how many florists in this country have bankrupted their businesses
because they didn't know how to fill out a tax form...they don't physically
know how to measure flower nutrients. That they don't physically know how
to care for a delivery vehicle...that they don't have the common sense that
they're getting sick and they need to stay homethat they're not smart
enough not to eat fast food every daybecause they don't work smarter, they

Floral Design Education

only work harder. When we are teaching hands on classes to people. We're

62

dealing with the fact that these are not educated people that we are trying to
teach a skill to. And it takes longer, and it's more difficult for them, and they
don't multi-task well (personal communication, January 31, 2014).
Having the benefit of a four-year education offers so much more to an
individual than the basic technical skills and business practices needed to run a
successful floral design business. Of course the time of life that an individual is
currently in has great impact on the kind of education that would benefit them most.
Both of the co-worker participants shared that one of the things that held them back
from formal education is their time of life and family situations. When Leanne
Kesler was asked her opinion about what kind of education she would recommend
she responded:
As far as the design education, I almost would opt to the technical side for
that...For a high-schooler coming out going to college, I think the college
experience and the expanded knowledge is incredibly important. And so for
them I actually advise the full degree AND technical school. Because they are
strikingly different, and so for the young person who wants to really have that
full education experience I think it is important to get the full degree and
enhance it with the technical learning. For the mature learner, who already
has a degree in something else potentially, or it is a second career; I
think that it would be a waste of time to go back for a full degree again. I
think for them the technical is the only way to go, because of the point they
are in their life. So I think they both have validity, and I think they both

Floral Design Education

really serve different purposes (L. Kesler, personal communication,

63

January 20, 2014).


Formal education provides general knowledge and life skills that can greatly
enhance the life satisfaction of florists. In addition to these life skills a greater sense
of self-confidence and self-assurance can arise because of the additional schooling.
One of the managers shared her observation of the confidence that came to designers
because of their added education, ...they (florist who have received formal
education), just have more confidence because theyve done it so much, that if they
are being tested and evaluated, to me, it just shows in their work (BK & JL, personal
communication, January 15, 2014).
Lifelong learning. Regardless of the type of education each of the participants
received, they all emphasized the importance of continuing education in order to
maintain their place in and grow in the floral industry. One participant shared how
continuing education classes appeal to her, Those classes bring in people who keep
you up on the latest trends, which is always good (personal communication, January
27, 2014). The same participant shared how much she hopes to continue her
education in the future regardless of her present position. I would still love to go the
floral design institute and continue my education, that way I could just be better at
what I do (AS, personal communication, January 16, 2014).
It appears that the more education an individual receives, the more eager they
are to continue to learn and never stop yearning for knowledge. Not only does a
formal education change the way a designer works in everyday situations, but it also
influences their thirst for knowledge and continuing education. It seems that those

Floral Design Education

who have had the opportunity to learn, only yearn for that continual growth. In my

64

journaling I shared the following:


The foundation and need to know and understand flower names and
lasting quality was instilled in me in college. It became almost an addiction
for me. To this day if I see a new flower that I do not know the name of, I
have to find out what it is, and how it lasts...I always want to learn more about
floral design. I have received a lot of certifications and degrees, but the more
I know, the more I want to know.... There is never an end to what I hope to
learn (K. Larsen, personal interview, February 1, 2014).
Continuing education also shows commitment to the profession. One manager
suggested that the level of continuing education that a florist is involved in show their
dedication to their career.
There is a significant difference in my viewpoint when we are
interviewing and seeing people who have gone through floral educational
programs and those that havent...I have sat in on interviews where well
ask, a question well, how do you keep current in the industry? Do you attend
classes? And when they answer no, it surprises me. Its like well, how much
do you really love what youre doing? If your not constantly seeing whats
going on and looking at how you can add to your own skills, I look at that
person differently than the person who says, oh, I have a passion for design
and I just cant get enough of it, and I go to every class I can and I read books
and I go to the internet, To me, that just speaks volumes of how involved
they are in their own life and trying to increase their talent. I think all of that

Floral Design Education

65

encompasses continuing education and you know, its like how far does that
person really want to dive into their career (personal communication,
January 15, 2014).

It is apparent that education influences the everyday work of a floral designer


by changing them into the type of people who yearn for more education, and
therefore, better employees. When hiring individuals another manager emphasized
the importance of continuing education when looking for a potential employee.
I think it is important to look at the individual and see how she or he continues
to do his education after they have their education. What experiences do they
have? Do they express to us as an interview person, that I continue to do
study, I study till it hurts, I try to find new ways, new techniques and do I try
to be more innovative? I think those things are really all a factor. Its not just
the education itself, but are they continually doing education? Have they
branched out, have they met their full potential (personal communication,
January 15, 2014).
The person who is willing to invest in their education not matter what field of
study they pursue, will continue to be more eager to learn and continue their studying.
This attitude of knowledge is essential in order to survive in the floral industry today.
Leanne Kesler shared her vision of the importance of continuing your education as
long as you hope to have a career in the floral industry.
...The minute you stop educating yourself, you begin dying. And your career
begins to end. Because just because you get to what you consider the
pinnacle, it's just not really a stopping point, it's a stepping off point to the

Floral Design Education

next pinnacle, and to the next pinnacle. And I think that's what I see

66

happening in our industry right now, is there was a generation that reached a
pinnacle and stopped educating themselves, and that is where the flower shops
are failing, because, I guess my biggest thing on education is that it never truly
ends. It is an ongoing process until you choose to end it and at that point you
are making conscious decision to begin the ending and death process of your
career...It is just that as long as you want your career, it has to have a
continual growth process (L. Kesler, personal communication, January 20,
2014).
Those who take the time to pursue education generally yearn to learn and
know more in the future. It takes that lifelong passion to endure as a florist in todays
world.
Life satisfaction/calling. It is clear that formal education influences the
everyday work of a floral designer in so many ways. One of the most profound and
important ways that it has influenced and benefited me is the opportunity to work
doing something that I feel is a life calling. Arranging flowers provides an avenue for
the process of creation. Each of the designers that participated in the study shared that
they too have felt that being a florist is so much more than a job. Without the
education that has taught each of us as designers, the potential to achieve the life
satisfaction and calling of a florist would have been greatly reduced. In my
journaling I reflected on the possibilities that have been opened to me because of that
instruction:

Floral Design Education

Providing the opportunity for others to enjoy flowers is one of the most

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precious things I feel that I have been privileged to participate in in my


lifetime. I know that without my education I would not have had the same
opportunities and experiences to participate in this work. When I made the
decision to become a florist, there is no question in my mind that it was my
calling in life. On a day-to-day basis I am blessed to be able to create beautiful
things that bring other people joy and happiness. I cannot think of anything
that I would rather do with my life that bring joy to other people through what
I believe are a creation of God. This profession is so much more to me than a
job. It brings me an immense and intense sense of satisfaction and joy. I am
truly happy creating and designing. It is my life calling, and I would not have
been able to achieve it without my education (K. Larsen, personal interview,
February 1, 2014).
The opportunity to work for a large non-profit corporation as my co-workers
and I do comes with the chance to create amazing displays and designs that are
viewed all over the world. The high skill level that it takes to create these kinds of
displays comes only with much education and training. The education that this
designer received helped her to not only acquire the position, but also helps her as she
creates on a day-to-day basis. Another designer shared how much fulfillment she
receives through being a designer,
I just feel really blessed to be where I am at this point in time...its a great way
to express yourselfsomeday it is going to be really hard to leave because

Floral Design Education

the creativity outlet is demanding, but it is also fulfilling (LD, personal

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communication, January 27, 2014).


In conjunction with the other designers, AS shared how much being a florist
has meant to her in her life, and the happiness that comes from it:
Obviously it is a job, but also more importantly it is something that I love to
do. And I am happier when I am designing and creating things that make
other people happy... Who doesnt love getting flowers? I have always
wanted a position like this (AS, personal communication, January 16, 2014).
J Schwanke shared the pleasure that can come from dedicating your life to
providing something of beauty and happiness to others. That happiness and success
comes from educating yourself to become the kind of person that has the skills to do
so.
I love flowers, and I love people. And I have now settled into a career that
maybe is not going to give me you know, millions of dollars, but I am
extremely happy because I have millions in success of loving my work,
loving the people that I work with, and being able to provide a product to
people that they enjoy and they feel is entertaining and worth some
money to themYou know, but youre somehow dedicating your life to
doing good. (J Schwanke, personal communication, January 31, 2014).
Without the formal education that each one of the participants received they
would have been far less likely to be in the positions that they are in, sharing their
talents, skills and knowledge with people around the world. In this respect, formal
education influences these floral designers in a way that is far-reaching and global.

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They are able to find life satisfaction and happiness by dedicating their lives to doing
good, in part because of their formal education.
Conclusion
It is clear that education influences the everyday work of a floral designer in
profound ways. Understanding and having basic flower and design knowledge is
clearly a significant and needed asset for any florist. Business sense and
understanding is arguably even more important for a daily florist to thrive and
succeed. And finally, personal satisfaction and life happiness can result as a

consequence to floral design education. As a conclusion to my letter to BYU-Idaho I


stated:
Could I have learned to be a florist without the education I received? I
suppose that I would have learned how to put flowers in a vase, and how to
make this or thatbut I would not have become a successful designer without
the basic foundation that the program has provided me with. Nor would I
have the desire to continue my education and never feel like I have learned
enough without the time I spent in my education (K. Larsen, letter to BYUIdaho, July 28, 2013).
I truly believe that it is through my education that I have been influenced to
move towards a successful and fulfilling career. I believe that J Schwanke described
the importance of education best when he said,
I think number one is, if you have a passion for whatever you do, you need to
develop the support skills to ensure that you wont be taken advantage of
because of what you love to do. I think that if youre a skilled surgeon, if

Floral Design Education

youre a writer, if you are someone who loves to play football, you need to
develop the skills that go with your passion. The passion for whatever it is
that you love to do. And I think that that is something that florists have not
taken the opportunity to do, is to develop the skill sets that allow them to be
successful and still maintain their passion, because there is no denying that
florists are the hardest working people on the planet. And they are creative
and generally generous to a fault. They are, they will give you know, they
will give until it hurts to make sure that there is an emotional connection. I
mean they truly turn peoples feelings into flowers. And that is a very very
skilled, creative, valuable job. But if they are, if their life goes to ruin, if
their health falls apart, if they are loosing their belongings and you know
putting themselves in harms way because they never developed the skill set
to partner with that, then thats a bad thing (J Schwanke, personal

communication, January 31, 2014).

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Floral Design Education

Chapter V: Implications and recommendations

71

Introduction
When you look into the face of a flower... I dont know did anybody teach the
flower how to bloom? You know, you planted it in the ground and gave it
some water. And even if you plant it upside down, it will come up. It will
take it a while but it will come up. And the flower is still going to be as

pretty, but you know, it just made it a little bit harder for them. I wish we
would just get florists to be planted right side up. Sometimes they are just
planted upside down and theyre just working really hard to make it all come
out, and they dobut if it could be easier for them than it would be better (J
Schwanke, personal communication, January 31, 2014).
This analogy from J Schwanke resonates with me deeply as I conclude this
study. The way to help florists bloom quickly and easily is through education. It is
unfortunate that so many in our industry have either not taken the opportunities, or
had no opportunity for the kind of education that would allow them to reach through
the soil and dig deep roots of understanding in the world of floral design.
Results
The results have shown that formal education influences the everyday work of
a floral designer in very tangible and profound ways. It changes the way florists
understand basic design and industry skills. This deeply impacts their daily work
skills and habits. The results also indicate that business skills, practices and
professionalism can be enhanced drastically by formal education. Floral design
would not be possible without the business that drives the flower economy; therefore,

Floral Design Education

understanding good business practices is essential to survival in the floral world.

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Lastly, this project has shown that education influences the florists ability to
understand the opportunities for personal growth and achievement in floristry. This
personal growth can lead to life satisfaction and personal happiness.
Recommendations/Implications for Future Research
As I began this study I had hopes to uncover other research that has been
performed on the subject of floral design education. It soon became very clear that
this is a field that has yet to be explored in any kind of depth. As such, I came across
question after question of other avenues that need to be explored to understand what
kinds of recommendations are to be made in regards to floral design education.
However, there is one firm recommendation that I can come to as a result of this
research. It is clear that education influences the everyday work of a floral designer.
Therefore, I can make the recommendation that any individual wishing to pursue
floral design as a career should gain as much education as they can relative to their
life allowances and availability. There is an incredible opportunity for further
research, and in order to make any more solid recommendations about what kind of
education ought to be happening in the industry, the following topics require
significant investigation.
Types of floral design education. As stated in the beginning of this
document there are incredible amounts of disparate educational opportunities
available for florists. Research about the benefits of each of these educational
opportunities is needed. For example, there is amazing opportunity to understand the
benefits of a floral design school, or six week program, versus the benefits of a four-

Floral Design Education

year degree. A look at the benefits of each kind of education and what

73

recommendations can be made for individuals wishing to pursue it needs to be


examined.
Certification programs. In conjunction with formal educational settings,
there are a number of certification programs available on a state, national and
international level. These certification programs need to be looked at, and the pros
and cons understood and evaluated. One of the greatest limitations of certification
programs is who sets the standards for the certifications and if they are being updated
and, therefore, maintaining a sense of credibility.
The benefits of on-the-job training. It is clear that training on the job is an
incredible and irreplaceable educational opportunity in floral design. How much on
the job training influences the everyday work of a designer as opposed to formal
education needs to be understood and evaluated. Comparing and contrasting the
benefits and detriments of apprenticeships and other on the job training opportunities
needs to be explored.
Life circumstances. One of the articles of interest that I came across in my
research is that education, and whether or not an individual chooses to pursue it,
depends greatly on the individuals life circumstances. Age, money, children, and
past educational experiences greatly impact if a person chooses to receive an
education, and what kind of schooling they will pursue. Understanding these life
circumstances from a floral designers perspective would be of great value to the
industry. For example, if an individual was brought up in the floral business, versus
someone joining the industry when they are 18 or even 60, it would change the kind

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74

of education that each individual pursues and seeks after. In addition, understanding
that the floral designers average age is rising, how will that impact the future
education of floral designers?
Floral design educators. Another subject that should be explored is to
understand the value of a successful educator. Many of the participants shared that
their education was greatly affected by the educators themselves. These teachers
made a huge impact on them for both good and bad. Some participants shared that
having multiple teachers made a distinct difference in their floral design education
and how they have developed as designers as a result. Research about what makes a
floral design educator successful and the opportunity to learn from multiple teachers
needs further exploration.
The drop in the florist population. The population of florists has dropped

rapidly in recent years. More research should be done about what factors such as the
economy, generational divides, lack of keeping up with trends and technology, and
education or the lack thereof have to do with this drop. If the floral design industry is
going to survive, we need to educate ourselves about what is happening in the
industry and what we can do to change it.
Life calling/satisfaction. This is an area where I feel like I have just touched
the tip of the iceberg. What motivates florists to do the work that they do for so little
monetary gratification in most cases? Does having a floral design education directly
affect the life happiness and satisfaction of florists in general? These are just a few of
what I see as potentially many behavioral and psychological questions that could be

Floral Design Education

answered by further research into the psychology of flowers and how it relates to

75

floral design and education.


Conclusion
When I began this journey I hoped to answer the question about how floral
design education influences the everyday work of a floral designer. Through selfreflection and interviews I was overwhelmed with the over 130 ways that education
influenced the work of florists on a daily basis. These instances came to light through
myself, and a few other florists and experts. In truth research could be done on each
one of those 130 ways, and how to connect education to positive influence in the
daily work of a florists. My main conclusion overall is that if an education is
possible, it is indispensible in the progression and growth of a florist. As florists we
have the special opportunity to bring emotion and love into peoples lives through our
craft. Hard work, a love for flowers, and on-the-job training is essential, but it is not
always enough. If a florist is seeking success and life satisfaction, he or she has an
opportunity to find it in the ways that they choose to educate themselves.
It is my hope that florists will take into consideration the impact that
education can have on their lives and choose to pursue what makes sense for them in
their life situation and circumstances. I hope they will take the opportunity to plant
themselves right side up, (J Schwanke, personal communication, January 31, 2014)
and allow themselves every opportunity to bloom where they are planted.

Floral Design Education

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APPENDIX A:

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