From bouquets to table arrangements to wreaths—lots and lots of wreaths—floral design workshops are all the rage. Popular before the pandemic, the classes have become the new must-do. “People are looking for fun activities to do outdoors with small groups of people,” said Mara Tyler, owner of the Farm at Oxford. “It’s also a great way to reconnect with nature.”
It’s also about reconnecting to creativity—and friends. “If you haven’t seen one another much over the quarantine, this is a great way to do an organized activity that’s creative and relaxing,” says Christine Bennett, owner of StudioFlora in Berwyn. “The wine helps.”
After Bennett opened her retail space in April 2019, she hosted workshops in the building’s second and third floors. She’d have up to 30 people attend evening classes on succulents, outdoor planters, holiday designs and other topics. When she closed her shop to comply with COVID mitigation, Bennett segued to Zoom workshops and contactless pick-up kits. Her first post-quarantine workshop was done on the sidewalk in front of StudioFlora. “We were masked and at stations six feet apart, right on Lancaster Avenue,” she says. “It may have looked odd to have cars driving by, but we had a great time.”
Bennett is back to in-person workshops and getting a lot of requests to hold them in people’s backyards. She recently led a class for a Tredyffrin/Easttown mommy group at one of the women’s houses. “The energy was great,” Bennett says. “Everyone learned something and had fun.”
Folks come from as far away as Virginia and Harrisburg to attend floral design workshops at Tyler’s Kennett Square farm. The property offers blooming flowers and a wide variety of perennials, shrubs and other kinds of foliage. That diverse plant matter gets incorporated into Tyler’s workshops, illustrating her overall goal of encouraging people to create arrangements with materials they find in their own yards. “Or start planting things that you’ll want to incorporate into your designs,” she says.
Tyler began hosting workshops several years ago. Though her annual average is five, she’s already done 17 so far this year to meet demand. The dahlia and peony workshops are the most popular, and wreath classes are perennial sellouts. “In addition to working with different materials, people are interested in the technical end of creating wreaths—wreaths that don’t fall apart,” says Tyler.
The Farm at Oxford’s classes typically last two hours and include cheese plates from nearby Talula’s Table. Guests are invited to BYOB, and they get a set of pruners to take home. “Education and inspiration—that’s our goal,” Tyler says.
It’s the same for Jennifer Reed, a floral designer who creates pieces for weddings and other events. While her Jennifer Designs team constructs arrangements for special occasions, Reed’s workshops focus on things people can incorporate into their everyday lives. She’s held classes at Longwood Gardens and recently had a full-day workshop at Malvern’s Gallery 222. For that, Reed collaborated with local artist Jan Weir, who instructed attendees on painting the floral designs they created. The day-long event sold out weeks in advance. “An empty vase can be as intimidating as a blank canvas,” Reed says. “But we had a fantastic group, and everyone learned, created and bonded.”
Related: The Philadelphia Flower Show 2021, COVID-Style