Giving experiences as gifts is a big thing these days. As cut flower growers, we can use classes and events to make new customers fall in love with our flowers and grow our business in different geographic locations.

Joining with existing groups or businesses expands the appeal. I have done classes with churches, garden clubs, food co-ops, restaurants and at my own farmers market during regular hours. There are lots of options inside or outside. You need tables, chairs or benches, a water source and a bathroom. Everything else can be adapted to the situation.

Three options for how to structure classes can translate into a combination of experiences that can work for any skill level or price point. The easiest is “fill a vase,” where participants bring a vase (usually tall) and I set up a flower bar with a dozen options in my usual categories. We discuss only the basics of flower care and design and let them have fun creating a masterpiece. These are free flowing and fun, and a great time for friends and family to do a project together. I encourage children as young as 8 to participate.

Another option is to set up a “paint ‘n’ sip” and have the group follow along in creating a project from a predetermined kit. This works great with teenage parties or those less inclined to creativity. The structure makes it less chaotic, plus there is less waste. It’s also really great for dried flower wreaths where control of the amount of filler used is important.

Basic design classes are my favorite. Everything about the process is strategic for making choices for every stem placed. I build off the structure of “fill a vase” but discuss in-depth vase choice, mechanics, flower selection, filler placement and design. I set up a staged photo area with a background and lights so each person can document the arrangements. We end with a formal critique using design principles to discuss choices. Then we take a group photo.

Prior to the design class, I create samples for visuals at three stages. The first thing I show them is a sample of the completed arrangement, then an empty vase showing the mechanics. Passing it around helps solidify the steps. The second stage is a vase greened out with fillers. Bring twice the filler you think you’ll need because they will use it. I talk about starting around the outside, always leaving space for the focal flower. This set of three samples illustrates that perfectly.

Teaching a design class can be a great way to introduce people to different flowers and create potential customers. Photo by Betsy Busche

What you need to provide is dependent on what level of design you are offering. I supply each participant with a set of snips, flower food, mechanics and flowers. If we’re doing a basic design class or a design by copying situation, I will include the vase in the price. Fishbowls or teapots work best for design classes as they allow for low and wide arrangements. The tighter the arrangement, the less stems used. I have also created a double-sided handout that I provide for every session for basic flower care, information about flower food and design principles plus my contact information and schedule. It’s important they have something to take home. Along with this, I’m sure to label all of the flowers, even the common ones, as this is a chance to help educate about local flowers. I spread them out into extra buckets so they do not tangle and break as much.

Pricing is important because more of your time is involved. Prepping flowers and supplies, driving to the location, setting up and then cleaning up all add up to several hours. A flower bar takes time and space. Flower kits take even more time to put together. These are social events so it’s important to block the tickets in events and have places for friends and family to sit together. Even a two-for-one price helps here. I set my price for flowers, then work in hardgoods, and then add the cut for my host.

These workshops are supposed to be fun. Being organized helps people explore the flowers and develop a love for them. Sending home a flyer with details lets them reach out to you in the future for other events. I pick up several baby and bridal showers a year from people I have met playing with flowers.