Flowers are often called upon to express sentiments that are beyond words.
They are given as congratulations at graduations, carry an infinity of love on anniversaries, and express the depth of our sympathy at funerals. Florals are central at weddings, adorn doors during the holidays and sometimes even plant the seeds of new love on first dates.
There is artfulness to the arrangement of a beautiful bouquet that takes skill, patience and practice.
“People don’t realize you don’t plunk,” says the president of St. Albert’s Floral Art Society, Karen Jans. “You have to work with (the flowers).”
The Floral Arts Society is a member group of the St. Albert Place Visual Arts Council and has dedicated itself to developing an appreciation of flower arranging in our community since 1978. You can find the group advancing the art form at the Country Craft Fair, StArts Fest and at exhibits hosted by the Art Gallery of St. Albert, among other events.
While most might instinctively think of the classic handful of red roses when it comes to flower arranging, it’s important to note that the floral arts don’t begin and end with a bouquet. There are centrepieces, wreaths, swags, corsages, as well as larger forms built high with pine branches, twigs, bows and bells, that can decorate front steps or hearths in mid-winter.
“One year we made corsages (at StArts Fest),” says Jans, providing an example of the diversity of the craft. “So people, adults and kids alike, come over. We set-up out in the rotunda (at St. Albert Place) and have them make their own. To see the joy on these kids faces that they’ve made flowers for Mom or themselves, is just a highlight.”
The society puts on classes and workshops throughout the year for those interested in exploring the art form, including the exceptionally popular one-day Christmas workshop, which often sells out by September. For those looking for a little more in-depth learning, there’s The Basics, an eight-week course for beginners, and Beyond the Basics, a six-week course for those who are looking for some intermediate instruction.
“We supply the container and step-by-step instructions, so these ladies get to go home with a brand new arrangement every week for eight weeks,” says Jans of The Basics course. “(The instructor) supplies every lady with the same flowers and you should see how many different arrangements you can get out of 15 ladies. With the same flowers, but different arrangements. It is really neat.
“If you take a bunch of flowers and you look at them, they kind of talk to you,” she continues. “If you hold up the flower and you look at it, you see, well, this one is drooping this way, so he kind of wants to go this way. So you stop and you take a look before you do anything and you see how they’re moving when you do the arrangements. Just don’t plunk. Work with them.”
The society’s membership sits at 15 and the group only accepts new members when current members move on, due to space constraints. As a society, they meet once a month to develop their skills and work on arrangements, based on a theme, such as succulents or landscapes.
“It’s fun,” says Jans. “The ladies are so nice to work with and we have so much fun. It’s a great outing.”
With the crisp smell of freshly cut greens floating through their workspace, Jans insists that she’s no gardener, but that doesn’t matter here. The creativity lies in how you place the blossoming buds and the form you give the full, flowing leaves.
“I’ve been involved for close to 20 years and I love designing flowers,” she says. “I’m not good at growing. I don’t to seem to have a very good green thumb for growing, but I love to design.”