Exhibitors show the art of flowers

Jodi Schellenberg
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When most people get a flower arrangement, they only think of the beauty, not the work that goes into it.

Elaine McMillan demonstrates how to make a flower arrangement at the Prince Albert Exhibition on Thursday.

At the Prince Albert Exhibition on Thursday, a group of flower arranging exhibitors put on a demonstration for fairgoers.

Elaine McMillan, one of the four demonstrators at the event, has been arranging flowers for about 30 years.

Unlike many people who actively started arranging, McMillan fell into the hobby.

“I actually started off helping friends who owned a floral shop doing deliveries for them in their busy season,” she said. “When I had a lull in deliveries I would stand there and watch the designers.”

After watching them for a while, the designers started getting her involved in the work. What started as making bows turned into greening containers and then bloomed into flower arranging.

“I learned sort of from the experts, which was nice.”

At the fair, McMillan and her cohorts were teaching others how to make a beautiful arrangement.

“We are starting right from scratch with an empty container and explaining the mysteries of flower arranging,” she laughed.

Although McMillan is a realtor, she manages to incorporate her hobby into her job. She likes to give each new client who buys a home a flower arrangement she has created as a housewarming gift.

“I like the things you can do with them and the creativity,” McMillan said. “It is just pick an odd container and make it look really stunning along with the flowers.”

Instead of buying expensive flowers, McMillan will use what nature provides.

“I’m cheap -- I go out and pick the ditches, as I call it,” she smiled. “I use all the free greens and grasses and pods and everything you can find just in the ditch.

“Even people in apartments -- go out for a drive and gather things in the ditch,” she added. “There are all kinds of flowers and greenery to use for free.”

One of the great things about picking wildflowers is if you make a mistake, it isn’t a big deal, McMillan said. You can just go pick more later.

“I do go and buy as well because some of the stuff obviously doesn’t grow here but the majority of my stuff, like I said, I’m cheap,” she said. “I have lilacs at home and it is one of the best greeneries you can use because it is the first thing green in the spring and the last thing green in the fall. I use lilac leaves a lot and they are long lasting in an arrangement. They will long outlast the flowers.”

Although McMillan loves all flowers and doesn’t have a favourite, she tends to lean towards using lilies and Gerber daises.

“I buy a lot of local lilies from Honeywood and support them,” McMillan said. “They just have acres and acres so it is wonderful to go out there and just walk in the fields and smell the flowers and look at all the beautiful colours.”

She also teaches others the ins and outs of flower arranging, not just at the exhibition but through the Girl Guides as well.

“We’ll go out and spread an afternoon out at Honeywood and pay a nominal fee to them,” she smiled. “They will set us up a table in the shade and we bring out own buckets and vases and demo it.”

They have been teaching and demonstrating for three years at the fair.

“We usually have full chairs. Every year it gets bigger and bigger the people who come to watch,” McMillan said. “It just encourages people that you don’t have to go out and spend a fortune. You can buy one flower and make it look fabulous.”

Although they were only doing a demonstration on Thursday, McMillan said there is always someone to talk to at the exhibition near the flower arrangements.

“We have somebody on our staff here all day long, so if people are asking, we will try to answer their questions,” McMillan said. “I kind of fall down a little bit in the vegetable department because it is not my forte but I know what a potato looks like.

“Flowers are much more my thing,” she added. “All of us are kind of specialists in our own way. We have a lady who does wonderful potted plants and another gentleman who does wonderful cut flowers, just single flowers to show.”

She would like to see more flower arrangements entered into the fair next year.

“You don’t have to grow your own flowers -- our rules and regulations state you can go to a friend’s place and use some of their flowers,” she said.

“We would also love to have more people on our committee,” she added. “We only meet three times a year, other than fair week, so it is a great committee to belong to and there are a lot of wonderful knowledgeable people on our committee too.”

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