A Weekend At Floret

For my 40th birthday (last November) I decided to gift myself an adventure. 

I thought about a big trip - maybe Tokyo or somewhere else far away - probably with Aaron in tow. As I started to explore my options something about Floret's flower workshops popped up (either via email or on Instagram or something) and I decided that would be my gift to myself if I was able to get in (registration sells out almost immediately). I started following Floret after seeing their farm and flowers in a magazine in the last few years - maybe Country Living or Living - and seeing their awesome photography and their love of many of my favorite flowers (dahlias, peonies, sweet peas, etc). Sign me up.

After reading the workshop descriptions and checking my calendar the June Seasonal Floral Intensive: Peonies worked best. These workshops - both the flower intensives and the flower farming intensives - are really designed for people who work with flowers either as designers or farmers but people who just love flowers are also welcome (that's me). During the workshop weekend Erin and her team share their creativity, their business knowledge (social media and web stuff), and their knowledge of flowers and farming. 

I have a deep love for flowers. There are long flower-cultivating traditions on both sides of my family - my Dad's parents who spent many of their years on the Oregon coast and my Mom's parents who spent most of their years on the Eastern side of the mountains in Oregon (wheat farming) and some of their later years on the Oregon coast. Both sets of grandparents and my parents loved being outside and loved cultivating flowers. 

I also have zero experience with professional floral design. Around here I love bringing the outside in - cutting flowers from my yard and putting them into vases and spreading them around the house. That's the extent of my experience. For many of you memory keeping is your hobby - for me it's my job and what keeps a roof over our heads (and as you know I love it and it's simply a part of me). Embracing a hobby like flowers that I can sink into seems like a pretty darn good healthy idea. 

Bottom line, I'm working on getting a life and this was an awesome way to kick it off.  

Today I want to share a bit about my workshop experience at Floret

On Instagram I shared this photo with these words as I began my adventure:

For my 40th birthday last November I decided to celebrate by signing myself up for a totally new experience. Today I'm making the 7 hour drive up north past Seattle to Mt. Vernon to attend a @floretflower workshop. I was accompanied on the first half of my drive by my friend of over 25 years @paololiloc - hard to beat a friend who will fly down to drive back up to where he came from with you just to hang out. The second half of the drive I'm making on my own - blasting music as loud as I can stand it. Tomorrow starts a 3-day #floretworkshop where I'm going to learn something new about some of my favorite flowers (peonies, sweet peas, etc) and hopefully discover a few more things about myself along the way.

After arriving in Mt. Vernon I met three brand new friends (met via a Facebook group for the event) and we headed to dinner. It was an awesome start to this adventure - especially when one of the first people I met is also someone who just loves flowers and isn't a floral designer or a flower farmer (at least not yet). 

I loved going there knowing no one. The girls I met on my first night were such a great part of the whole of my experience.  

Walking into the barn on Day One we were greeted with buckets and buckets and buckets of blooms and greens. 

We probably spent at least 30 minutes or more just walking around and smelling the blooms and taking photos. 

Everything was organized by color - I loved this purple corner. 

After our morning session where we shared introductions and intentions (you know I loved that) we headed over to Erin's home farm (the barn where we were based in a friend's farm) to walk the fields, cut flowers for the arrangements we would be making over the next few days, and see the operation. 

I can't tell you how cool it was to just walk around and see her set up - the rows, the greenhouses, etc.

This is a small-farming operation that is optimized for production.

Yes, I couldn't stop smiling. Especially in the rows of sweet peas that are taller than me (and I'm 5'9).

Erin gave a tutorial about cutting and things to put in the water after you harvest. 

Poppies. 

Our task after the initial instruction was to fill the truck with blooms for our arrangements. 

I love learning. Love, love, love it. 

Even the discard piles were held beauty for me. Actually what I loved most about this shot was the red barn along the horizon line. 

And then we started harvesting. It was so fun to see what people carried back to the truck. 

I had just as much fun taking pictures as harvesting flowers. 

The truck beginning to fill up. 

The lovely Erika of @junesblooms on Instagram taking photos of anyone who wanted one holding this awesome collection of pink Stock. 

There's even beauty on the ground. 

A view of the truck from the side as we got ready to head back to the barn. 

Bulging out of the back of the truck.

We received an extensive workbook that included personal development exercises, goal setting, floral pricing information, resources, etc. 

We also all got a copy of the book Now, Discover Your Strengths and our homework for the first night was to take the Strengths Finder test. My top five strengths results shouldn't be too much of a surprise (ha): 

Dinner with my new friends as we recapped our first full day. So much laughing and talking and story sharing. 

Day Two started with a demo from Erin about creating an arrangement in an urn. 

Seriously, I was jumping out of my skin excited because this was all new to me and I was so ready to just dive in and play. 

Our working spaces in the barn. Mine was right there in the front. 

My first official arrangement in an urn!!! I don't use very many exclamation points but this one really deserves it because it was totally how I felt in the moment. 

One of my biggest takeaways from this workshop experience was the use of greenery. It gave me a whole new perspective of both things I might want to grow in my yard and use when I bring the outside in.

Our next task was to create a hand bouquet. Again, a first for me. 

Pink, pink, pink. 

During the event there was a professional photographer shooting our activities and they had a model there to hold each of our bouquets (awesome for people who need professional shots to advertise their design work). She's holding my bouquet. 

After a full day of making stuff with flowers we headed to dinner. More laughing and sharing. 

We started Day Three creating arrangements in compotes. 

These were made to line our dinner table later in the day. I loved doing this. 

This is my friend Marianne's bouquet. Check out her Instagram account @poseypop - she also does really awesome chalk art - she's in the Orange County area if you are around there and looking for a floral designer or chalk artist. 

Marianne took this shot of me on the cement in the barn shooting away. 

We also got to make a bracelet or flower crown. This is the bracelet I created. So cool. 

As a group we worked to design and installation and set a table for our farewell dinner. Obviously it included tons of flowers down the table and all around. 

A view from above in the barn down at the table and the space we worked in earlier in the day. 

Our amazing farm to table feast was catered by Ashley Rodriguez of Not Without Salt.

I think one of the things I really loved about this event was that everything was new to me: people, places, things. I was a complete beginner and it was fantastic. 

Huge thank you to Erin and all her team for such an awesome, inspiring, life-affirming experience. Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom and creativity and experience. 

PS // I knew, as I was living through this weekend on my own, that it would likely be a life-marker. A life-marker is one of those experiences with a before and an after - an experience that changes you or an experience that really quite literally marks the beginning of a new phase of life. At the time I couldn't have told you just what it was marking, but now after being home for a month I know that it was my own personal entrance into the next chapter of my life as Aaron and I intentionally begin to merge our lives together. More on that in another post to come

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49 thoughts

  1. SusanBowers says…
    07/07/2016

    Beautiful post. Love, love, love that you experienced this, how you documented it, how you lived it. And, darn, then, you ended it with that PS...so excited for you!

    Reply 0 Replies
  2. mtercha says…
    07/07/2016

    You look so happy, peaceful. I was amazed that weekend of your Instagram photos, and it looked like so the perfect choice for you. I'm really, really happy for you. I love this. Michelle t

    Reply 0 Replies
  3. dalex says…
    07/07/2016

    Wow! That looks like such an amazing weekend. Love what you created. Thanks for sharing this inspirational post. Best wishes for the next chapter.
    I'm turning 50 soon and struggling with that, maybe I need to try something new to mark this new stage in my life.

    Reply 0 Replies
  4. Juljul13 says…
    07/07/2016

    Wow, what a wonderful experience, beautiful photos and a jump start for a new beginning. I can see why it's a life marker.
    thank you for sharing.

    Reply 0 Replies
  5. tammyeberhard says…
    07/07/2016

    What an amazing weekend! I love your pictures and your words. So happy for you.

    Reply 0 Replies
  6. Keddyo says…
    07/07/2016

    Gorgeous. The photos, the post, the experience and the end of the post. Ali, you are teasing us in the very best way! What an exciting chapter.

    Reply 0 Replies
  7. Kegger says…
    07/07/2016

    Lovely post! Such vibrant colours and the strengths finder made me laugh - Every new employee at our work does this after they get given a job (so it has nothing to do with the job you're given). My top strengths are Learner, Achiever, Intellection, Activator and Analytical ;) Nice to see we share some! :)

    Reply 0 Replies
  8. MommaBean says…
    07/07/2016

    I felt all the exclamation points reading your words. Thanks for writing about this experience. Such beautiful photos as well. I hadn't thought about "life-marking" experiences quite in those terms before and I love it. A fitting description for my first retreat with Liz in 2013. So excited for you as you step in to this next chapter.

    Reply 0 Replies
  9. mugsie says…
    07/07/2016

    Loved your words in this post Ali. It's so fun doing something for you every once in awhile isn't it? Especially something like that! So dreamy! My trip to Abbotsford was supposed to be somewhat like that (but not for any milestone, just for a momma break) but I came down with the flu haha! Even though that happened it was still so fun, scary and exciting to do something for me, all on my own. And to meet you and Katie, so cool. I just may have to look into something along this floret workshop for another self experience. I've been contemplating how to add another level to our yard so I can grow more flowers (you know, like in the jetsons, a floating piece of land hehe). PS - I'm so happy your staying in your home, it just seems like the perfect place :) Happy Thursday!

    Reply 0 Replies
  10. kellyish says…
    07/07/2016

    this just makes me smile all over ali! thanks for sharing your awesome experience.

    Reply 0 Replies
  11. Lize says…
    07/07/2016

    Thanks Ali, I so enjoyed your photographic eye into this breath-taking place. I can just imagine how all that beauty can fill and heal and open you up to whatever is next. May you walk in it from here on.

    Reply 0 Replies
  12. kcp_ says…
    07/07/2016

    Reading this post thinking... This is an awesome experience. So unique. So glad you gifted yourself this opportunity. How can it get better? And then you end on a cliffhanger :-) Excited to read whatever this upcoming post will be.

    Reply 0 Replies
  13. Bookworm says…
    07/07/2016

    One thing you said really struck me: most of us that follow and engage with your creative work are doing it as a hobby, but it's your job and you need a hobby that is *not* also your job. Your writing and the photos are so full of joy -- the one of you lying on the floor to take photos is a great example of that. I adore these lush textured dimensional photos -- great light, fun composition. Wishing you and Aaron and your children all the best as you enter a new phase in your lives.

    Reply 0 Replies
  14. jenber says…
    07/07/2016

    What a beautiful and inspiring gift to give yourself. Such a breathtakingly beautiful space to work in. What a great way to celebrate 40.

    Reply 0 Replies
  15. KProffitt says…
    07/07/2016

    What an amazing, beautiful experience! So very cool that you gave yourself that gift, Ali! Love all of the photos! SO happy for you and this next chapter of your life! XO!

    Reply 0 Replies
  16. papergoddess says…
    07/07/2016

    These photos are beautiful! Are they all iPhone?! This whole thing just makes me happy, happy for you and happy because, duh, flowers! As an outdoor/gardener/flower person I so get it.

    Reply 0 Replies
  17. bravelove says…
    07/07/2016

    Yay! Ive been hoping you would share the details of your weekend at Floret. I love these ideas of gifting an experience to yourself instead of things and of embracing being a beginner and opening to new people, experiences and self awareness. Congratulations Ali!

    Reply 0 Replies
  18. gina200 says…
    07/07/2016

    This is so fantastic Ali. Thank you for sharing this amazing weekend. I would absolutely love to do this workshop.

    I love how you ended your post and look forward to hearing about the next phase of your life. Thank you for sharing your life. I know I'm not the only one who is cheering you on and wishing you all the best. You have quite a gift in that you are able to share your life in a way that people want the best for you - you're real and down to earth yet also inspiring...just by being yourself and sharing your story.

    Reply 0 Replies
  19. bonitarose says…
    07/07/2016

    such an amazing experience! Love it all! how do you keep flowers longer in water?/ I wanna know the secret!

    Reply 0 Replies
  20. kaylambutler says…
    07/07/2016

    oh ali, you are so inspiring! i love love love how you tell stories and share experiences. and i love your brave heart-- jumping into something totally new because you love it and want to challenge yourself. thanks for this. love from minnesota!

    Reply 0 Replies
  21. peggy1958sue says…
    07/07/2016

    so lucky!!! lucky, lucky girl!! I think, we as women, need to more of this in our lives. I feel sometimes that we just get so wrapped up in other peoples lives that we forget who WE are! what WE want! I just LOVE your creations that you made and I think you need to branch out and do this as well as what you are doing with life memory keeping!! BEAUTIFUL, BEAUTIFUL arrangements! I need to look into this! My son lives in Redmond, so could go and see him and then do this! YEA!! I'm DOING THIS! First, I am going to take care of my new grandson in Virginia for 2 months. The longest my husband and I have EVER been apart since we met, 42 years ago. High school sweethearts and married on our 4 year "going out" anniversary. I'm hoping to learn a lot, like you doing this adventure. Be well!

    Reply 0 Replies
  22. kislanykim says…
    07/07/2016

    Thank you for sharing -- there is so much wonderful here: for your exploration, learning, making new friends, doing something for yourself, and being immersed in such sheer beauty, which you are in turn able to capture so well in photographs and words. Thank you and congratulations as well to you and Aaron and your families. Love that idea of a marker. Love that you did this for yourself.

    Reply 0 Replies
  23. Debora_Prass says…
    07/07/2016

    OK, so everything you shared about this experience is exactly how I felt when I went to CKU in 2008! I was turning 30 and wanted to have an adventure, and ended up choosing to go to CKU Chicago, on my own, and it was so amazing that I literally cried on the plane flying there - happy tears. And one of the highlights was your class, of course :) . Its soo good ta have a hobby, and when your work is something you love, it may seem you don't need a hobby, but everybody does. The whole journey of attending CKU, meeting new people, was life altering, it was so much fun to read about your experience with flower workshop. Thanks for sharing!

    Reply 0 Replies
  24. adawson816 says…
    07/07/2016

    That PS did me in... Tears started flowing. I need to do something like this for myself. I'm stuck right now and really want to experience something like this that is creative, fulfilling and new. You are such an inspiration in so many ways.

    Reply 0 Replies
  25. jamurphy says…
    07/07/2016

    Inspiring. Thank you for sharing.

    Reply 0 Replies

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