The first time I attempted floral design at UCONN during my studies, it was awkward for me. I found it to be rigid and required a great deal of attention to balance, form, and structure. I remember my instructor was very formal and went over all the exact steps on how to do various floral design styles in each class which had to be followed in a very specific order. There was no playing around with the arrangement as we worked. It made me feel like I didn’t have the freedom to bend the rules.
Perhaps my frustration had to do with the feeling that I just didn’t have a natural talent for floral design, which is kind of odd to me because I enjoy putting together plants in container gardens and patio pots. For some reason, plants with roots attached versus plants cut from individual flowering stems, have always been easier for me. The process of selecting the plants by texture and color comes naturally as I insert them into a pot of soil, but floral design is a little different – because it requires a methodical approach.
However, I believe many people have a natural talent for floral design. They have an eye for how the parts come together in an arrangement – stem by stem. After all, when you arrange flowers in a vase or in glass container for display, you need to have each stem cut at certain length for the appropriate height and balance. The individual pieces must work together in form and function.
When I see beautifully arranged floral designs on the web, I always pause and admire the creator’s work, and that is exactly how I felt when I visited JEM’s Horticulture and Design’s website for the first time. Each floral arrangement made by the designers of JEM’s for various weddings were perfectly formed and assembled with really, really pretty color combinations based on various themes for each wedding they serviced – and I thought, their designs are traditional as well.
JEM’s Horticulture and Design
The art of floral design requires some basic skill to get started, which some people master over time, and I would have to say JEM’s Horticulture and Design has accomplished this. But, I didn’t know of them because I happened to browse their site accidentally. I met Jeff Mayer, owner of JEM’s, when I started my first nursery job after finishing courses at the University of Connecticut. At that time, he was new in the horticulture world, somewhat – but I was very new. We both had just acquired positions at a garden center and started chatting there as newbies. I was a career changer in my late 30’s, he was just starting his career in his early twenties.
Jeff and I started either on the same day or same week at the garden center. I can’t remember now exactly because that was over 8 years ago, but I remember we were learning our new jobs and getting acquainted with the regular long-time employees at the nursery.
As I got to know Jeff, he would sometimes offer me tips when I started drawing landscape design plans for customers of the nursery. He never mentioned to me that he had a degree in landscape design, but would try to help me whenever he could between moving quickly from the office floor to the nursery floor outdoors.
We also would joke about things from time to time, share plant passion comments during our daily work – and, I genuinely enjoyed Jeff’s company although he is half my age! Eventually we both moved onto different arenas in the plant world. We lost touch for a while, but we were both noticing our work online.
Fast forward to today. Jeff is a Head Grower of a very large grower based out of Cheshire, CT called CK Greenhouses. This is impressive. This growing facility sells to both to independents and big box stores – they process huge orders – into the thousands of plants.
In the winter time, Jeff has posted photos of their greenhouses filled to the brim with red poinsettias which is amazing to see as the miles and miles of bright reds, pinks and whites fill the scene. It’s incredible how many they grow there. And being a plant person myself, I know this effort requires horticulture expertise and talent.
One day last year, I decided to text Jeff to ask him a question about an insect problem I was having on a plant, and I took the time to tell him how I admire his progress in the horticulture world. He replied that he admired the creativity of my container gardens which he saw via my postings on Facebook. The bottom line is – even though I am not nearly as advanced as Jeff is with plant knowledge, we both seemed to find our niche in the plant world. And we both appreciate the differences of the working worlds we are experiencing today.
What I didn’t know was he and his wife, Mandy, started a floral design business in 2009. It started with their own wedding actually. It was the very first time they formally made arrangements, centerpieces, and corsages for a wedding. They decided to start offering their floral designs as a team and named the business JEM’s Horticulture and Design, with JEM’s being a play on their first names and sounding like “gem.”
As you can see from this photo from their wedding day – they didn’t do a shabby job for the first time creating wedding arrangements in colors of the reds, bright yellows, and warm oranges to represent an autumn wedding date of October. Their adventure of providing floral services for weddings and funerals took off from there. They have serviced over 15 weddings to date, and as you browse their links on the website, you will see the various colors used for each theme and season.
Jeff is a graduate of The University of Connecticut with a degree in Horticulture and also a graduate of The University of Maine with a degree in landscape design. With his two degrees and experience as a head grower, you can imagine he has a wealth of knowledge about growing various plants, trees, and flowers. However, I didn’t realize what a talent he had for floral design arranging until recently.
Mandy, whom I met for the first time when she and Jeff met my husband and I for dinner, said she learned the skill of floral design from Jeff and their friend, Dory. Dory lives in Maine where Mandy is originally from, and it is where they delivered floral wedding arrangements for Kurt and Cindy, among other friends from that area. They designed the bride and bridesmaids bouquets as well as the centerpieces and arbor flowers. Personally, I absolutely love them – the whites, pinks and soft rose color are gorgeous in the photos shown from Kurt and Cindy’s wedding day.
Mandy describes herself as crafty but she said she doesn’t have any formal training in floral design outside of what Jeff has taught her, and her friend Dory who has a background in floral design also taught her – so there you have it – some people are gifted at floral design – and I think she is, based on all the arrangements they have done for friends and family ever since they did their own wedding arrangements.
Mandy has an eye for the colors and what would go nicely together, per Jeff’s description of her style. And she says, Jeff has the eye for texture and how to shape an arrangement. He is very symmetrical with his floral designs, something, which I noted earlier, I do not. This is something you learn and master, or perhaps have a natural ability for doing.
Jeff has done everything from small corsages to large arrangements. While he may appear as the master mind behind their floral design business at JEM’s, in just the one dinner meeting with Mandy, I was impressed with her talents and the way she spoke about everything we discussed. She is a very smart young lady and has a keen sense for business.
We had the best time talking that evening over dinner, and I probably was over-talking because I was so excited to talk plants, flowers, and workshops with them both – all the while, my husband, Steve, quietly listened and ate his Italian meal with no objections. He was probably admiring the connection between us as plant enthusiasts.
Floral Design Workshop
There are specific things to learn about floral design from how to cut stems, ways to store them, and how to prepare the water for long lasting pieces, and you may become a master or be like me, coming along slower when it comes to floral design – but I do know this for sure – creating as a group in a workshop energizes everyone attending and participating. It is inspiring to share a space, learn, and create – Thus, I was super thrilled when both Jeff and Mandy accepted my invitation to teach a class this year as part of Container Crazy CT’s “Nature with Art” class programs. This workshop is scheduled on Saturday, February 6th, 2016 in my Broad Brook classroom. Start time is 11 am.
We timed this workshop so attendees may make their floral design arrangement just in time for Valentine’s Day. This workshop is a great way to share time with your mom or daughter making your very own floral arrangement and taking it home to display, or to gather up some friends to create your arrangement.
Our feature flowers at this workshop will be Alstroemeria (Peruvian lily), spray roses (clusters of blooms on one stem), carnations, spider mums, mini carnations, daisies, and Ruscus (evergreen foliage). Additionally, attendees will have the option to buy a container at class (two types will be available) or bring their own of an 8” diameter. In addition, they will have the option of purchasing some special bicolor carnations, additional spider mums, and red roses. What more could you ask for?
I suggested to attendees currently registered that they may bring any embellishments they desire to dress up their floral arrangements, as shown on my Pinterest board. Bring it along, and we enjoy having Jeff and Mandy’s direction on everything at our workshop day.
We are so very lucky to have these two guest speakers on February 6th. There are seats still remaining. If you would like to register, please do so below, and confirm your seat by mailing in your payment ($45/pp) by January 15 to Cathy T’s Landscape Designs. The address will be provided after we receive your registration. We need to order the flowers three weeks in advance per my guest instructors, so don’t wait – We would love to have you to join us, but seats are limited – sign up today!
By the way, Jeff and Mandy have two beautiful children. They reside in Stafford Springs, Connecticut where their business is also located. Mandy also holds a degree in early childhood education from the University of Maine. She is a stay at home mom, and she and Jeff love combining their love of flowers, family, and home life.
“Stay Tuned for More Workshops! We are filling the 2016 Schedule!”