Creating beautiful floral arrangements is a centuries-old artform. The Floral Team at New Mexico State University offers insight into how it’s done.
Written by Zak Hansen
There’s a lot more to floral arrangments than arranging flowers.
There are design considerations. There are marketing considerations. There are mathematical considerations. There are ancient standards of aesthetic perfection to follow. There are buyers to woo, growers to court, and color trends to anticipate years before they “trend.”
Just how much goes into the art—and business—of floral design becomes clear in an hour spent with members of the New Mexico State University Intercollegiate Floral Team and their teacher and coach, Sabine Green.
Sabine, a New Mexico native and NMSU alum—she said she “arrived as a freshman in 1992 and hasn’t left”—has been the team’s full-time coach since 2003. Sabine received her full induction as a Certified Floral Designer by the American Institute of Floral Designers in 2015—a huge step for her professionally, as one of the few certified designers in the area. This also benefits Sabine’s students: only collegiate teams with a certified coach may participate in AIFD’s national competition, meaning now NMSU can take the national stage.
In my brief hour’s visit, Sabine will touch on the necessary contrast of dynamic versus static lines, the varying state licensure guidelines for florists throughout the American South, and how the Fibonacci sequence—1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144 and onward—applies to flower arrangement via the golden spiral. What’s more, it will all make sense, coming from her.
Sabine is an unorthodox teacher—and the first to admit it—but from the stunning results I see her students put on the table at the end of class, she’s doing something right.
On this April evening, surrounded by crates tumbling with clusters of pink heather, blood-red tulips, fragrant strands of red-gold freesia, delicate boughs of pink and white hyacinth, deep-purple anemone, roses in red, orange, white and pink and carnations in at least that many colors, along with myriad other flowers I can’t identify, a half-dozen students in Sabine’s advanced class are decorating small cakes with fresh flowers, succulents and other embellishments.
Other meetings will have them working in the Japanese style of ikebana and its delicate balances between shin, soe and tai—heaven, earth and man, or in the classical Biedermeier, Mille de Fleur, and pavé techniques of Europe. A project last year yielded arrangements in a turquoise-blue boot, styrofoam takeout containers, an antique camera, and a decorative horn, among other “impossible containers.”
When the team isn’t designing, they’re out in the world, attending floral seminars, taking field trips to growers and industry businesses, and competing at the local, regional, and national levels. They do all this through their own fundraising efforts as one of the few financially autonomous chartered groups on a sometimes budget-strapped campus.
To this end, the team holds a weekly plant sale, from 8:30 to 11:30am Wednesdays in the lobby of Gerald Thomas Hall, 940 College Drive on the NMSU campus. There you’ll find succulents, easy-care houseplants and patio plants, and the occasional seasonal items— poinsettias around Christmas, centerpieces for Thanksgiving—grown by Sabine’s students in the floriculture program. They also offer single flowers and beautiful arrangements, also crafted by student designers.
Funds raised at these weekly sales and others—including a weekly “standing order” for arrangements by members of the NMSU faculty and staff and appearances at the Mesilla Farmers Market, along with centerpieces and arrangements for campus banquets, presentations, homecoming activities and special events, even the occasional wedding—help the team compete at a regional and national level. This year, for example, students will head to the West Texas New Mexico Florists Association’s convention in Lubbock, where they’ll compete against other regional florists for the prestigious Silver Cup and Dorsey Cup.
The team is also planning to make its way to the American Institute of Floral Designers’ 2018 symposium “Discover,” set for June 30 through July 4 in Washington, DC. The largest event in the floral design world, the annual AIFD conference is attended by thousands of industry professionals, providing students with a look at what’s happening in the design world, as well as an invaluable networking opportunity with future employers.