Back to Class

This month has been an incredible one. If I boiled "the best of September" list down to just a few notes, they'd be:

-Seeing the sun for a few weeks straight!

-Pulling off our first on-farm promotional photo shoot. 

-Visiting with flower friends old and new at one of Ardelia Farm's Brunch & Blooms events.

-Having my "Locker Flower Bombing" design reposted on Flower Magazine's Instagram account.

-Earning a spot in a beautiful styled shoot next month. -Stay tuned for the photos!

-Collecting dahlia recommendations from some of the country's most experienced dahlia growers.

-And now, sitting down for a class with famed designer, Lewis Miller. (Where are the heart eyes emoji on this keyboard!?) 

I'm in New York City today for some professional development at Flower School New York. I can hardly believe this is professional development. I am excited and star struck at the same time. I think that means I'm doing the right thing for me at this point in my life. While a trip to the city and a course with an influential designer isn't inexpensive ($300 for a 2-hour class plus another $100 for me to drive and park and ride the train in from Albany), I am in need of a serious re-fresher, and I know that it is important to my business to seek inspiration and advice from the folks who know this work best. This investment will benefit my clients and my portfolio. I'm going to duck out now for class, but I'll be back soon to share notes from class on the train ride back!


Well. That return train ride turned out to be a real adventure. My train lost power around Garrison, NY. After several attempts to get it going, we were asked to disembark and wait for another train to a different station, and then another train to Albany. Now, several hours later I'm still making my way towards Albany, where I'll grab my car and head back up into the mountains. I should get in around 3:30am, just in time to hustle around and button things down before a pre-dawn frost hits. My family helped cover plants in my absence. But, I'm still hoping the clouds stick around and keep us just a few degrees warmer.

Anyhow- back to the good stuff. Flower School. For starters, I really had no idea what to expect. I wouldn't have been surprised if the school had sold a hundred tickets for a teacher like Lewis Miller. I thought the space might be huge and the experience impersonal. But that was not the case at all.

When I arrived, I was greeted by the school's founder. Eileen Johnson is as sweet a person as you'll ever meet. I carried with me a bucket of humble strawflowers that I mowed down the night before on our farm. (They were victims of a big harvest before the cold temps crept in.) Eileen was quite tickled. She'd never had a student bring flowers to share before.

Eileen founded Flower School New York in 2003 after a career with a foundation that awarded scholarships to students in grades kindergarten through eighth grade. She is a giver to the core and you can just tell that when you meet her. She also has tremendous pride for the program she's built, which calls in the most celebrated floral designers for workshops with her students. 

Lewis was there early, too, and it was nice to meet him and introduce our little farm before class. The studio is intimate - like I should have probably guessed, given its location in Manhattan. There were supplies set out for 16 or 20 students, max. I knew right away that it was going to be a great opportunity to work with flowers and learn from everyone in the room. I was a sort of enigma- the only grower-florist in the class. And, while I hardly consider myself an expert, I did find myself helping with a number of questions about the different varieties of flowers that came in for the workshop from fellow flower farms in the Hudson River Valley and the strawflowers that I toted along to class. 

Lewis shared his personal aesthetic and inspiration. He talked about how he's designing the gardens at his new home and about how he favors loose, airy arrangements over stiff, boxy ones. It was both inspiring and reassuring to talk to him about moving my own clients past that tight ball of flowers look that has been popular for a long time, but that doesn't allow flowers room to show themselves off. He encouraged me to plug on and stick to my convictions. 

 Lewis Miller working on his demonstration arrangement. The strawflowers at right are from our farm. 

Lewis Miller working on his demonstration arrangement. The strawflowers at right are from our farm. 

 Fresh Hudson Valley and Adirondack flowers at Flower School New York. 

Fresh Hudson Valley and Adirondack flowers at Flower School New York. 

After a nice teaser of a demonstration, Lewis turned us loose on the spread of flowers at the front of the class, and we started to build our own arrangements. Eucalyptus, dahlias, snapdragons, laceflower, scabiosa, ornamental grasses, white cosmos seashells, and my strawflowers were all up for grabs. He circulated through the room like a good teacher does, making sure to connect with each student several times and share compliments and suggestions. Eileen shared some bubbly and hors d'ouvres with all of us and Flower School assistants helped us find good places to photograph our work. They packed up our arrangements for travel. I met a friend for dinner after class and sent my flowers home with her. She was thrilled to unbox my arrangement and find it completely in tact. Well done, Flower School New York!

 My arrangement from Flower School's Master Class with Lewis Miller. 

My arrangement from Flower School's Master Class with Lewis Miller. 

Considering a course at Flower School? Click here to learn more and view a calendar of upcoming events. Ariella Chezar will be there on October 5th. The purple classes are open to the public. Blue courses are part of the program for enrolled students. 

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