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FLORIST - Description

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Florists work throughout the United States, in every state, city, and town. They may just sell cut flowers and plants, but often they are also floral designers who use flowers and plants to create bouquets and arrangements that express a particular sentiment or mark special occasions like birthdays, holidays, anniversaries, weddings, and even funerals.

Because florists sell flowers and plants and use them for arrangements, they must know how to care for and maintain all types of cut flowers and plants. They must be familiar with a variety of flowers and plants, their differing colors, shapes, and sizes, as well as which ones look good and survive well together.

Florists should also know how to use nonliving materials such as dried and silk flowers, ribbons, and balloons in arrangements. Florists must be familiar with various pots and baskets used for arrangements as well as special materials like florist's foam, which is placed in containers to help keep arrangements moist.

As a florist, you'll have a lot of contact with other people. You have to enjoy interacting with customers and have good communications skills to help people select flowers and choose arrangements. Some customers know exactly what they want, while others might know only that they want a particular arrangement that says “love” or “thank you.” Your job is to help customers translate their feelings and thoughts into flowers and plants. You must be sensitive to their budgets and willing to suggest low-cost options when they can't afford more expensive flowers and plants in arrangements.

In some cases, such as weddings, you'll be given a set budget and asked to create a number of pieces, including bouquets for the bride and bridesmaids, boutonnieres for the groom and groomsmen, and centerpieces for the ceremony or celebration. Many florists visit the setting to insure that their arrangements will blend well with the décor.

Flowers and arrangements often mark joyous occasions like birthdays and weddings, or holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Valentine's Day. At these times, conversations with customers are usually upbeat and lively. But there are also sad occasions, like illnesses and funerals, when you must have the sensitivity and patience to deal with worried or grieving friends and relatives.

Since many florists run their own shops, they need good time-management skills and discipline to insure their creations are completed and delivered on time. They also need business skills to keep track of inventory, buy flowers and plants from wholesale suppliers, price items, and hire and train workers. In addition to serving local customers, florists often work with international floral wire services, such as FTD and Tele-Flora. These services will contact you by telephone or e-mail and ask you to re-create set arrangements from their catalogs for a set price. Such services are used when out-of-town customers want to send flowers to people in your area. Other florists work in similar ways for floral services on the Web.

Flowers Through the Ages

Early civilizations used flowers for decoration, for religious observances, and for celebrations. The ancient Egyptians put flowers in their hair and clothing, and placed flower arrangements on the altars of gods and goddesses. Ancient Greeks used wreaths for decoration, as gifts, and to honor athletes and other heroes. Today, winning marathon runners are still crowned with fragrant laurel wreaths, and Olympic champions receive large floral bouquets.

Through the centuries, people continued to use flowers. In the nineteenth century, flowers and gardening soared in popularity. Young women learned flower arranging, as well as music, sewing, and other skills. They wore small bouquets, called nosegays, tucked into their dresses in containers called bosom bottles. Or they carried small glass, pearl, or ivory vases known as posy holders.

In the 1950s, free-form expression influenced by the sixth-century style of Japanese arrangements called ikebana became popular. These arrangements used driftwood and even figurines. Today, florists use many styles, including traditional, free form, and ikebana, in their creations.

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