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. 


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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47 thoughts

  1. pmmessner says…

    love love LOVE this! here's to "life marker's"!

    Reply 0 Replies
  2. jchurch2 says…

    Ali, you continue to amaze and impress me. What a great adventure! I would never have the courage to do that trip by myself. You are so inspiring, on every level.

    Reply 0 Replies
  3. hgauvin says…

    What a wonderful experience for you. The arrangements you made were gorgeous and those flowers...just beautiful! I'm so happy for you and your life marker!! Go Ali go....

    Reply 0 Replies
  4. Ravenwood1950 says…

    I have a great love for flowers and arranging them as well, I know the workshop was a wonderful experience. Ali I wish you and Aaron all the happiness in the world, you so deserve it. God Bless.
    Darlene Ragon

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  5. StudioM says…

    Oh, Ali, I loved todays post. What a lucky girl! If I ever pick up and leave California for Bellingham, WA I would be an half hour away. I can see why they're sold out in classes. Amazing photos, a gifted experience. xo, Marian

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  6. peanutshell says…

    Thank you for sharing this. It looks like such a wonderful weekend and way of exploring a part of yourself. The photos and blooms are so lovely to look at; like a delicious cool drink on a hot day.

    Reply 0 Replies
  7. shannon80 says…

    This is just amazing. I was watching your instagram posts about floret and could just feel the happiness from every picture your posted. The Sweet pea one just oozed happines from inside and out. I am so happy for you to have such an wonderful start to the next chapter in your life.

    You have already made me start thinking about what I would like to do for the next milestone birthday.

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  8. Librarybug says…

    As always, I'm so inspired by you. It's so exciting to learn new things and I'm so glad you've shared it with us.

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  9. abbypimentel says…

    Thank you so much for sharing all of the beautiful photos, words, and insights. Just like everyone above, I literally got (happy) goosebumps and chills when I read your PS. Congratulations on finding your forever-happy-place -- you so truly deserve it.

    Reply 0 Replies
  10. scrappysuenz says…

    i love that there's a tractor in the workshop! what a wonderful wonderfully colourful post ali. it's obvious how much you truly enjoyed this experience.

    Reply 0 Replies
  11. Inkfanatic says…

    Ali, this is SOFREAKING awesome!!! Love every photo, every word, the whole story! And just today, I discovered sweet peas flowers! So you know I loved that sweet pea shot!
    I totally agree about the life marker moments. (In the midst of huge life changes myself, in a good way...so that resonates, big time!)
    In fact, reading this post, has helped me immensely just now, with some clarity, regarding this point in time in my life, so huge TY for that!
    Excited for you & Aaron, and the kids as you intentionally merge your lives:)

    Reply 0 Replies
  12. Laurie_Anne says…

    Lovely post! Beautiful pictures and gorgeous narrative. Thank you!

    Reply 0 Replies
  13. kelsterjean says…

    What a beautiful and amazing experience! Maybe I should take a class. If I were to choose one area, I think it would be cooking. Because I would be oh so proud of tackling cooking.
    Can't wait go hear about the next chapter of your life. Keep inspiring, always.

    Reply 0 Replies
  14. sjansenak says…

    What a truly amazing experience this must have been . The buckets and buckets of flowers organized by colors caused my jaw to drop and it stayed there throughout the entire post. And the end. Boom. So true. I went by myself Art & Soul - an art retreat and it was quite similar and DEFINETLY a defying event. Now I want to go soak in those pictures some more..... Thank you for sharing…......

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  15. Hockeymom210 says…

    Your photos are so captivating. I can easily visualize myself walking through the fields and arranging flowers right next to you. As always you cheer and encourage others to create new stories in their lives. Such a remarkable experience! Thank you for sharing. And thank you for sharing your strengths. Over the last 5 years I have learned how my top 5 strengths work in my life. That is eye opening too. Love, love, love that you shared and had such a wonderful time!

    Reply 0 Replies
  16. donnac816 says…

    Oh how very spectacular! and breathtaking. what an amazing adventure. I could totally do that one :) In June of 2014 I turned 49. I was struggling with a bunch of things. I decided I would set out to do 49 adventures. I had rules. It had to be something new and different that I not done or been to before, it had to be cheap or virtually free, It had to have a treat of either food or drink on the way at some point and it had to be a photo opportunity, as I wanted to document the whole year and the process. Wow what an amazing year I had. I had to search harder and go further from my hometown of London, Ontario..but wow I sure did! I rarely set out with a plan, I don't have GPS in my car, so each adventure was an adventure in and of itself. I was totally amazed at what I found, learned, and shared with my friends. Most of the adventures were solo, I decided it was about and for me alone! At the end of the year I had 58 files of individual adventures in my photo storage, and 9637 photos! Now to document the adventures. I have now been returning to the places I have found, met so many amazing people and completely headed outside the box in my world. so fabulous that you shared this beautiful spot and your adventure with us Ali! well done.

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  17. AndiWalsh says…

    Lovely, lovely, lovely. I can smell the peonies from here. And the dinner table decor? Breathtaking. I think a touch of beauty each day makes our lives all the more at peace.

    Reply 0 Replies
  18. Jaynescraps says…

    Loved it all Ali. The pictures, the words, that ending! I was especially blown away by the model holding your creation. What an amazing place for your life marker. Bringing flowers in from your garden will never be the same. As a lover of flowers, you might enjoy the book The Language of Flowers (fiction.) All the best to you as your journey continues. Thank you for sharing.

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  19. MeganR says…

    This is awesome Ali. I love how brave and adventurous you are! I am turning 40 too next month and have no idea what I want. I don't know if I'm brave enough to go on an adventure on my own anymore, but you have given me an idea to perhaps go away for a couples adventure.

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  20. nerdgirl says…

    Posts like this are why I've been coming back for years. Its hard at times when blog posts are only trying to sell me something. I don't come here to buy products, I come for the realness of what you used to post. If I buy something its because you've inspired me to unintentionally. So please, more real life and less commercial please.

    Reply 0 Replies
  21. KarenC says…

    The flowers are breathtaking. Your photography is stunning. Thank you for sharing them.

    Reply 0 Replies
  22. fannyathome says…

    So beautiful! What a lovely experience! Thank you for sharing!! very inspiring!

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