“FDI retreat offered creative rejuvenation to founders, attendees and instructors alike.”

Floral Design Institute (FDI) turned 50 this year, 2019, yet no one at the renowned education center in Portland, Ore., is showing any wrinkles.

Founded in 1969 and purchased by Leanne Kesler, AIFD, PFCI, FDI,and David Kesler, AIFD, PFCI, FDI,in 1988, Floral Design Institute is known for turning out some of the finest creative and competent designers in the world. If you are an FDI graduate, or you know one, you are aware that FDI not only teaches floral design skills but also provides a network of support reaching back to the flagship culture of Leanne and David.

“In thinking about how to celebrate our 50th year, we wanted to validate the value of education and meet the need of floral designers to connect with others. We landed on a summer camp concept – not in our traditional classroom setting but somewhere beautiful. We knew that good teachers were a must-have, so we set about finding a location and securing the talent,” explained Leanne.

The Oregon Garden, an 80-acre botanical wonder with an attached hotel resort, was the site of the first FDI Creative Retreat, held Sept. 8-11, 2019. “It created an intimate place where people could connect, yet a larger environment where attendees could get away and be replenished,” said Leanne.

Fifty people from all over North America and one from Australia attended. One for every anniversary year? “No,” laughed Leanne, “When learning environments get bigger than 50, the crowd dynamic changes. We wanted our attendees to feel the one-on-one teacher/student benefit,”

Certified FDI floral instructors were Michelle Headrick, AIFD, PFCI; Marisa Perring, AIFD; Carolyn Soumokil, CFD; Jeri Barr; Anna Bowman, CFD; and Chelle Dummer, AIFD. Each day, campers attended a morning session with a floral instructor followed by a wonderful networking luncheon and then another instructor-lead session in the afternoon.

Evenings of floral design presentations were held in the round to encourage equal conversation among attendees and presenters. Celebrity presenters at the evening events were Carol Jillian, FDI; Françoise Weeks; Katie Davis; Brenna Quan, AIFD; Shane Meehan, FDI; and Jenny Thomasson, AIFD, PFCI.

“The diversity of our presenters and instructors proved to be the strength of this first Creative Retreat, and with the help of our facilitators Ben Auth, FDI, and Jeremy Carroll, FDI, plus Susie Black, our guest retreat assistant, we know we met our goal of providing great education,” beamed Leanne.

Sharrai Morgan-Faulkner, AIFD, owner and designer at Holly’s Fine Flowers in Port Townsend, Wash., was a happy camper at FDI’s anniversary retreat, “There was magic in the garden during those four days, and the wisdom shared will continue to reveal itself to me over time. What I miss most are the people and their comforting embrace of my weary but now fresh new soul!”

Leanne and David did not enter into this educational opportunity with the idea of making money, “This is not a profit center but an investment in the floral industry,” explained Leanne. “We could not have achieved this success and floral fun without the wonderful assistance from our sponsors Accent Décor, Alexandra Farms, Fifty Flowers, Florabundance, Florists’ Review, Garden Roses Direct, Mainland Floral, Oregon Flowers, Smithers-Oasis Company and local growers Pollinate Flowers, Barefoot Farm & Flowers and Sweet Delilah Farm,” she added.

So delightful was the experience of education and replenishment that the Keslers are planning “Creative Retreat – Part Deux.” The Oregon Garden is booked for Oct. 11-15, 2020, and instructors and presenters are being solidified. The wedding season will be over and the holidays on the horizon, so register your weary souls, now!