Florists, or floral designers, arrange live or cut flowers, potted plants, foliage, or other decorative items, according to basic design principles to make eyepleasing creations. Designers make such arrangements for birthdays, weddings, funerals, or other occasions. They are employed by local flower shops or larger national chains, grocery stores, or established at-home businesses. There are over 98,000 floral design workers employed in the United States.
Florists Job Description
From simple birthday bouquets to lavish wedding arrangements, floral designers define a sentiment, a mood, or make an impression, using flowers as their medium of expression. Along with live flowers, designers may use silk flowers or foliage, fresh fruit, and twigs or incorporate decorative items such as candles, balloons, ribbons, and stuffed animals to their arrangements. Good equipment—foam, wire, wooden or plastic picks, shears, florist’s knife, tape, and a variety of containers—is essential. Techniques such as wiring flower stems or shading the tips of blooms with paint or glitter are often used to give floral arrangements a finished look. Familiarity with different species of flowers and plants, as well as creativity and knowledge of the elements of design are what distinguish a good floral designer.
Floral designers are fortunate to have a number of employment paths from which to choose. Some designers are employed at flower shops, while some opt to work independently. Aurora Gagni, owner of Floral Elegance, is one such entrepreneur. A registered nurse by training but creative by nature, Gagni always enjoyed making crafts. “I would see a picture of a flower arrangement in a magazine and try to duplicate it,” she says, “but I would always add and experiment and make it my own creation.” Gagni made floral arrangements, wreaths, and displays for family, friends, and coworkers, who in turn would spread word of her abilities. “At one point, I found myself giving bow-making lessons at work!” In time, Gagni had a steady and growing number of customers who relied on her skills.
What persuaded Gagni to give up nursing and go into business for herself? “My kids!” she answers. Indeed, this job perk is an attractive one, especially for someone juggling a career with family. Gagni conducts her business almost entirely from her home, and is available for the “many little things”—driving to and from sports events, delivering forgotten lunch boxes, and, of course, homework.
Gagni tackles a variety of floral requests, but weddings are her specialty. While a typical wedding day lasts a few hours, the planning stage can take months. “Usually, the bride and groom look at my book,” Gagni says, “and decide if they like my work.” If so, the contract is “closed”—the contract agreement is signed, a budget is set, and a down payment is made—several months before the wedding day. Soon after, designs are made, keeping the budget in mind. Many brides wish for orchids with a carnation budget. “I try to accommodate what type of flower, or color, or look the customer wants,” Gagni explains, sometimes making alternate suggestions, especially if price is an issue, or if the flower is difficult to obtain. Gagni orders necessary supplies weeks in advance and scouts for upcoming sales. She notifies her floral wholesalers in advance of any flowers that are seasonal or difficult to obtain. Also, she visits the church and reception hall to check on details such as size, location, and any restrictions. The quickest route to both destinations is also mapped out to ensure prompt delivery of the flowers.
Gagni periodically checks in with the bride about any last-minute changes. Oftentimes, more corsages or more banquet table centerpieces are needed to accommodate extra guests. Bows are tied and secured with wire about two weeks before the wedding. Three days before the wedding, flowers are picked and kept fresh in buckets of water treated with floral preservatives. The actual arranging, done in Gagni’s basement, is begun the night before the wedding—bricks of floral foam, treated with water and preservatives, keep the flowers in place. Bouquets and corsages are delivered to the bride’s home on the morning of the wedding; and ribbons, flower arrangements, and corsages for the groom’s party, are brought to the location of the ceremony. Gagni then goes to the hall to set up for the reception. Final touch-ups are given to table centerpieces, the head table is decorated, and the last details are tackled.
Gagni hires additional help for large contracts, especially to assist with the final arrangements. Her children also help when needed, and her husband is her unofficial delivery driver.
Most retail floral businesses keep a relatively small staff. Sales workers help customers place their orders; they also take care of phone orders. Drivers are hired to make deliveries. Sometimes assistant designers are employed.
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