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A Floral Design Career

Updated on November 13, 2014

Getting Paid to Design with Flowers

For many years I worked in a flower shop where our customers were able to walk through the design room as we were working. It was exciting for them to see what we were doing and we frequently heard comments like, "That must be so much fun." "You are so lucky to be doing this work." "It must be so relaxing." "I would love to do that too."

It is my goal to help you understand the day to day work of a floral designer. It is not as easy as you may think and is frequently very stressful. But, it is wonderful to be able to combine creativity and nature.

In third grade I took an apptitude test and the conclusion was that I would be a good landscape designer. Well...I think floral design is a mini-version of that.

I hope you enjoy learning about floral design as a career.

Getting Started

How I became involved with floral design

I learned floral design on the job. This is not uncommon, but getting your foot in the door is key. Here is how it worked for me.

After receiving a Bachelor of Arts degree in drawing and painting, my yearning to be connected to the natural environment led me to work in a greenhouse for the summer after graduation. This turned out to be the 'foot in the door" for me. I was in the right place at the right time and, even though I had no direct experience, a flowershop owner who regularly visited the greenhouse where I worked, got to know me and recommended me for a floral design position at another business.

This was many years ago and things have changed since then. It might be harder today to begin with no experience, but don't let that stop you from trying. It's a great way to learn.

After working in my first floral position for a few years, I went back to school, received an MA degree in drawing and taught art for several years. Eventually my love of nature and flowers guided me back to the art of floral design. But, you absolutely do not need a Master's degree to be a floral designer.

Designers have started out as delivery drivers, flower processors or salespeople.

As a flower processor, your job is to inspect, cut and treat the flowers as they arrive from the wholesale market and it's a great way to learn about the flowers.

I have known of salespeople, drivers and processors who wanted to start designing, but the shop owners felt they were too valuable in their current positions to move them to another one. You may need to think through a plan to present to the owners which would make the switch more desirable to them.

Formal Training

Going to school for floral design

As I did, you may want to study art and design at a 2 or a 4-year academic institution. Another degree which can help you along toward a floral design career is horticulture.

There are also schools specific to floral design such as Rittner's in Boston (see below). Some of my fellow designers have studied there and are doing quite well now. Once you begin to work in a shop you will fine-tune your skills and find working with other designers to be of great benefit as you learn from each other. You're constantly learning more and more.

Paula Pryke's Flower School: Mastering the Art of Floral Design
Paula Pryke's Flower School: Mastering the Art of Floral Design

Paula's NEWEST book was available on Valentine's Day of 2006. You can attend her school in London, too. See the link to her site under "Floral Design Schools and Resources".

 

What is There to Learn?

Its not just design

An important part of your education in floral design will be in what is called "mechanics". These are the techniques you will need to know in order to produce a solid piece which will be long-lasting and secure.

Proper use of a knife, though it may sound elementary, is important, for instance. Cutting cleanly at the correct angle can make all the difference in the success of your designs. Certain flowers will need extra support and unique treatments.

Even for someone who has been in the business for years, there is always something new to learn and floral supply companies are constantly coming up with innovative products to make our job easier and more interesting.

Get Yourself a Pair of These - The Best - REALLY!

Joyce Chen 51-0622, Unlimited Scissors, 6.25-Inch, Yellow
Joyce Chen 51-0622, Unlimited Scissors, 6.25-Inch, Yellow

These are the BEST scissors EVER for use in floral design. They feel great in your hand, are sharp and strong and can even be used instead of a knife. They are worth every penny. They are used by most floral designers.

 

Safety Issues

You might not think that there would be too many safety issues in floral design, but, aside from the obvious (knives, scissors, thorns), there are other things which are somewhat unique to the business.

  1. PESTICIDES & HERBCIDES: I think that the one issue most disregarded is that of pesticides and herbicides. These are absorbed through the skin and, while most designers do not wear gloves because they want being able to feel what they are doing, its not a bad idea to start early-on and get used to wearing them. (With corsage and other delicate work, however, gloves just won't work).

    I have found the best work glove to be a latex-free one by Kimberly-Clark called "Safeskin Purple Nitrile exam Gloves" and you should be able to find them in many drugstores. They are not as fragile as latex gloves and can be re-used. At the very least, consider wearing them if you are cutting the flowers as they arrive from wholesale.

  2. AEROSOLS: Many shop owners will want you to use a spray to shine the greens in your arrangements. This is so bad for you and we should legally be able to refuse to use it. These sprays specifically say to use them only in a well-ventilated area. Many a day I have seen clouds of this spray lingering in the air and gone home with a layer of it on my glasses. You know you are breathing it in. Try using a similar product in a spray bottle rather than an aerosol.
  3. SPRAY PAINT: Most shops discourage their customers from insisting on flowers sprayed with color. Some customers, however, cannot be convinced. Asthetically, its not great and the sprays are even worse than leaf shine, especially the metallics. I have seen designers get physically ill from using these. If you must use them, go outside.
  4. SHARP THINGS ON THE FLOOR...knives, wires or other sharp things! When you and your fellow designers are working quickly and dropping things on the floor as you go, the debris around you can be hazardous. You may forget that earlier you dropped your knife and had to get out another one because you couldn't find it. I've seen some pretty serious injuries caused by people scooping up debris off the floor to put in the trash. I jammed a wire up under my fingernail once and now I always use a broom and dustpan to pick things up. I cringe when I see someone using their hands. I just don't want you to learn your lesson the hard way.

Under The Feet of a Floral Designer

Under The Feet of a Floral Designer
Under The Feet of a Floral Designer

A High-Quality Knife is Important

Victorinox Swiss Army Floral Knife, Red
Victorinox Swiss Army Floral Knife, Red

When buying yourself a knife to use in floral design, go for quality. This is what I use.

 

The Importance of Speed

or ..."Time is money".

Any good manager or shop owner will encourage you and reward you as a designer for being fast.

You are a major component of the product being sold: the flower arrangement. It is your skill and creativity which transforms the raw materials into something greater than the sum of its parts. Without you, it is just a bucket of flowers, a vase, some water, a knife, greens. With you as the added component, it all comes to life.

To many people looking from the outside in, this is almost magical and it is a wonderful feeling to be able to provide a creative product. Speed, however, is an important part of professional floristry. It is what makes the business profitable. Speed will come with experience and focus.

I have seen Paula Pryke work (a published and well-known British floral designer) and, in addition to being a fabulous designer, one of the things that stands out about her is that she is very, very fast.

Holiday Work

Argh!

It takes a dedicated floral designer to hold up through the holidays. When other families are getting together on their day off before the holiday, you are working long hours at the shop, eating while you work without a break. you can get a little goofy.

Some holidays are intensive but short, like Valentine's Day, while others seem to drag on forever (Christmas). At Christmas you get tired of red and white and Holly (ouch). After Valentine's Day, you never want to see another red rose again.

Holidays can be a fun time in the shop when you bond with your co-workers through punchy silliness. You go through highs and lows throughout the day. Quiet times will ramp into periods where everything is suddenly funny.

It can take days to catch up on your rest and spouses and children can be resentful of your absence. Unless someone has been in the floral business, they will not understand how burned out and tired you are.

During these times, your love of flowers and design must carry you through.

Here's the Perfect Apron

Port Authority Medium Length Apron with Pouch Pockets - A510 - Red
Port Authority Medium Length Apron with Pouch Pockets - A510 - Red

This apron is a good length-- shorter to make it easier for you to bend down when you need to--has pockets to place your knives, scissors and other tools in, is sturdy and, because of the color, won't show stains easily. Perfect!

 

It's a Messy Job

Floral design is a messy job. You may not want to wear your best clothes. Things like stains from being surrounded all day in flowers, leaves and stems; floral glue from a tube or hot glue pan and even bleach from cleaning buckets...well...it all can get on your clothing at some point.

Find a Job in the Floral Industry

Here is a link to a headhunter/placement company for flower shops and other floral-related businesses as well as a jobs website specific to flowers.

Learn More Through Floral Design Magazines

Here's an idea: Talk to the owner of your local flower shop and tell them you are interested in learning more about design. Ask if they would be willing to give you issues of any floral magazines they receive once they are finished with them. This will have the added benefit of showing your interest and potentially developing a relationship that might "get you in the door", so to speak.

If you end up working in a shop, make sure you are given access to all of the shop's magazines each month.

While the periodicals I am showing you here may seem expensive compared to your every-day magazine, as a professional publication, they are well worth the price. Besides, if you are working as a designer, you should be able to claim these as a deduction on your taxes. Both of these high-quality magazines from Europe are published 6 times a year.

The Floral Design Magazine You'll Find in Many Shops

You will find this magazine in the back rooms and offices of most flower shops. Here is a description from the website of "Florists Review": "Florists' Review is the oldest and largest trade publication in the floral industry and the industry’s only independent monthly magazine for the retail/wholesale market." I'd say that, if you are a florist, it is definitely an important magazine to look at each month.

And You?

How Do You Feel About Floral Design?

See results

Wholesale Flower Markets

This is the kind of place where many professional florists find their flowers. You must be a registered business and this is a very early morning undertaking, much like going early to the fish market if you are a chef to get the freshest products of the day. Some florists, if they are close enough, go every day. Others who are further away can opt for deliveries.

Flowers: The Book of Floral Design
Flowers: The Book of Floral Design

IF I WAS CHOOSING JUST ONE, THIS WOULD BE IT. Not only are the designs very creative and the photos beautiful, but it is a terrific reference as well. Lovely color photos of individual flowers give you information on care and handling for each. I refer to this book all the time. The price may seem high, but it is a big, fat book chock full of info.

 

And.....

I hope you have found this information helpful. I just met a man who worked as a floral designer years ago. He said he had to change jobs once he was married and began to have a family. Yes, the floral business takes up so much of your time. "I never worked harder in my life.", he told me. So, there you go. Be prepared to work hard and make sure you love floral design.

If you have any questions about floral design, please feel free to contact me! I would be delighted to answer any questions you may have.

Any comments? Feel free!

© 2006 Nancy Graham

Reader Feedback

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    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Excellent information you're sharing here! Thoughts are running in my mind. Thanks for being truthful about being a Floral Designer. (:

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Great LENS!! SquidLike 4 u! If your looking for some interesting ideas for uplighting your centerpieces - visit my new lens LED Uplighting

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I have always loved flowers and have recently thought about going to a floral design school to see if I could do it as a career. I can already picture what some of the arraignments would look like. What would be considered good and bad flowers for a wedding? Thanks for all the great floral advice!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Thanks for the great lens! I just finished floral design school and now I want to start my own business. You have tons of great advice here. I will definitely keep your tips in mind. Keep the great information coming.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Thanks for the article. I have always wanted to go to floral design school and I really appreciate your advice. For those of you that have gone to school for flower design, did you find that it was fairly easy to find a job once you finished your schooling?

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      it good to know all the information about flower design i have a company

      norwich web design need this type of creation for my company .

    • sukkran trichy profile image

      sukkran trichy 5 years ago from Trichy/Tamil Nadu

      floral designing is an interesting career. thanks for your useful information.

    • njg profile image
      Author

      Nancy Graham 5 years ago

      @anonymous: Scarlet: Since your son is in Boston, why not try Rittner's School of Floral Design in Boston. I highlight them in this article. Also, I encourage you to be careful about leaving your email on a site. Once you have seen this message, I'll erase it for you. Don't want you to receive unwanted e-mails. Good luck!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Hello, Imy name is Scarlet. Im from Venezuela but have a son living and working in Boston. I would like to study Horticulture as a career,is something that I always wanted but in my country does not exist such a career only agriculture. please would you recommend a School or University where i could fulfill my dream. I would really apreciate it. my email is scarletcarbone@yahoo.com. thanks!!!

    • profile image

      Logics 5 years ago

      Then i see someone working like you I also say it's good and enjoyable work but know I understand it's not an essay to make design with flowers. Thanks for sharing

      as part of Web Design Company I would appreciate and recommend your affords.

    • profile image

      mohsince 5 years ago

      Thanks a lot for creating wonderful lens on topic -Floral Design Career . i was looking for a week but finally i come across your lens and ii found it lucky to have all information at one place. i had been owner of hire web developers and now look for career change. Thanks you guide me.

    • profile image

      Craftybegonia 6 years ago

      Very informative lens!

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      very good resources and information shared In this lens.I ll share this lens with my all friends so that they can also read this awesome lens.Thanks for sharing with us.As a part of Best website Design Company connect with your lens.More Power!

    • profile image

      myFootpathAdvisor 7 years ago

      This is a great lens! You really give a clear, concise overview of the entire career from start to finish. Well done.

    • profile image

      myFootpathAdvisor 7 years ago

      This is a great lens! You really give a clear, concise overview of the entire career from start to finish. Well done.

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      @anonymous: I completed school at Rittners six month course. I began the course with no knowledge of floral design, so I can say that I really learned a lot and it was definitely fun. It is especially great if you want to run your own home based business or open your own shop. For me, I am trying to find a job with a company, and it is difficult because they kind of just snicker when I say I went to school. Definitely does not help for getting a job, but I do at least feel confident with my experience.

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      great detailed information! I'm looking to begin a career in floral design, debating attending the New York Botanical Garden's program. Wondering if you have an idea on beginner's salary nowadays?? thank you!

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      I concur with an earlier comment. This is an outstanding overview - especially helpful to me as I contemplate shifting paths. I sincerely appreciate the time and attention to detail you've provided. I've bookmarked the site - so I can refer back to it often. Thank you.

    • njg profile image
      Author

      Nancy Graham 7 years ago

      [in reply to Shirley] I'm sorry, Shirley, I don't have direct knowledge. I think it is in Vermont? I would guess it would be helpful to you. Learning the basics is important and I'm sure they teach this. Good luck!

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      Do you have an knowledge of New England School of Floral Design? I live a lot closer to this school than Ritner's.

    • Violin-Student profile image

      Violin-Student 8 years ago

      This is an outstanding lens. I owned a floral shop for several years, and it was amazing the number of people who walked in the door believing that they could start producing wonderful arrangements with no training or experience. I even had one man come in the door who had made a single arrangement with plastic flowers shoved haphardly into a piece of styrofoam that was glued to a Corningware bowl. He couldn't even identify the flowers I had in my cooler. Very, Very, VERY Good lens. 5 stars.

    • packetlog profile image

      packetlog 8 years ago

      excellent information. thanks !!

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      I have been in the floral business for 17 years..most of that time as a "grocery store" florist(I owned my own shop for awhile first and hold a degree in Interior Design)..we manage a business within a business and do massive amounts of production during the holidays, especially V-day and Mom's Day(our particular part of Texas is always #1 in the company for these holidays). I would highly recommend someone wanting to get into the business to try starting in a local grocery based floral shop...you will get a taste of every aspect of the business and they will be most grateful for the help!!

      Even though we work really hard...As all florists do...I LOVE what I do and wouldn't trade it for anything else!!

      Thanks for a great writeup...Hope it encourages others to try their hand at design.

    • profile image

      anonymous 9 years ago

      Thank you for posting this lens.I myself am a fellow floral designer, and I worked commercially for five years in the trade, in both Boston and Aspen CO where I got a lot of really great exposure to the high end of floral design.Having worked in Boston, and even managed in floral retail, I would recommend Rittner's over Cass.Also it's funny how many professional floral designers have the same library...Paula Pryke is a great inspiration, and I would like to meet her and see her in action one day.

    • Laura Schofield profile image

      Laura Schofield 9 years ago from Chicago, IL USA

      I've often wondered how to become a floral designer. I know my late auntie did quite a bit of this. Very interesting lens!

    • njg profile image
      Author

      Nancy Graham 9 years ago

      Sheron Bergeron: You asked if I would recommend Rittner's in Boston or Boerma Institute in Holland. I do not have first hand knowledge of either. If someone else does, I hope they will offer you their feedback. Off-hand, I would opt for Boerma. (I removed your e-mail for your safety.)

    • profile image

      gods_grace_notes 10 years ago

      Greetings, Fellow Designer! I too, love to design florals. I THOUGHT I wanted to be a floral designer; until I tried it commercially. You are so right! It is a lot of work, and at times requires a fast and furious pace..So, now I'm happy to just design for my home and special occasions, Great Lens!

    • njg profile image
      Author

      Nancy Graham 10 years ago

      Kimberley: We designers understand each other! Some in other professions do too. My stepson worked overnight and through the next day just before Christmas installing audio equipment and remote starters in cars. He was falling asleep standing up. At least he was working for himself!

    • profile image

      anonymous 10 years ago

      you are so right about the way friends and family do not understand the hard work during the holidays and essentially every day. I grew up in the flower business and have been designing for 15 years.