After COVID-19 forced the cancellation of many of her weddings and events, Jennifer Reed implemented a long-held idea of hosting a flower-arranging workshop for kids.
As a kid, Jennifer Reed was exposed to the floral industry, spending some of her free time at her father’s flower shop in New Jersey, helping out after school and busy holidays. One thing she knew early on: She did not want to follow in his footsteps.
“I had no desire whatsoever to be a floral designer because it seemed exhausting, and I would watch my father do so many crazy things,” Reed says. “I went to art school thinking I would become an art teacher, but I wasn’t sure where my life would lead because getting a job as an art teacher was very hard.”
As it turned out, after receiving her B.A. in art from Rowan University in Glassboro, N.J., Reed did return to the floral industry, opening Jennifer Designs in Mullica Hill, N.J., a small community about 25 miles southwest of Philadelphia, where she focused on weddings and events.
“I did really well with the business and was very busy. But then I slowed down a bit when I had children—and then I got really busy again with events,” she says. “A couple of years ago, I also started mentoring other floral designers and helping out at the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society.”
When COVID hit, Reed lost a lot of her wedding and event business and was looking for ways to spend her time doing things that make her happy, and that brought her back to teaching.
“I’ve always loved teaching and helping other people,” she says. “And because my kids and I are together all day every day, I decided to implement an idea that I’ve had for some time: a learning program for children involving flower arranging.”
And, so, it came to be. During the hourlong class, the children first explored the various flowers growing in the area, and they learned the various parts of a flower. From there, they drew pictures of whatever they wanted to create with the flowers. They came up with fun things such as flower sunglasses and flower baseball hats. “They let their imaginations run wild,” she recalls.
The kids also collaborated on a centerpiece—Reed cut the flower stems to the appropriate lengths and explained the best way to arrange them. Reed was particularly impressed with the questions the kids asked and their desire to learn about the different elements of flowers.
“There’s always something special about teaching people something new and that isn’t their norm, especially kids,” she says. “Everyone wore masks and was socially distanced, and the kids had a great time.”
“Kids mostly see flowers as something their moms or dads might get for special occasions, and they don’t realize that flowers are something they can have fun with,” she continues. “A lot of adults are like that, too.”
Reed notes that floral design encompasses so many aspects— horticulture; botany; the sciences; the mathematics of proportions; and, of course, the art that comes from creativity. “In general, floral design hits on all the learning facets that children and adults alike need,” Reed says. “It’s fun to see all that come into play.”
Currently, Reed is planning to teach more workshops and is even considering offering some virtual classes so that people won’t have to go out during the pandemic. “It seems like it might be harder in the months ahead for people to get together in small spaces, but I want to continue teaching and getting people to fall in love with flowers,” she says. “I have a space in which everyone can be about 10 feet apart, and I can allow siblings to be together.”
Reed has taught similar classes for adults in the past—which, she says, are much different and involve wine—but she enjoyed teaching the kids much more due to their inquisitive nature and desire to learn. “It was fun to see the kids really think about what they were going to do, and we all have that ‘design face’ we make when we’re creating something,” she says. “It was really great.”
Other than the children’s flower-arranging class, Reed has been working with local stores to create flower and plant installations outside their storefronts, to bring attention to their businesses and create photo opportunities for passersby.
“All of my weddings have rebooked, but I am currently doing some micro weddings and birthday parties,” she says. “It’s nice to work with small businesses right now because we are all helping each other and supporting each other.”