Thursday, February 24, 2011

Mother-Daughter Floral Designers

My garden club was very fortunate recently to enjoy a demonstration of floral design from a mother-daughter team using Jane Packer's techniques and skills learned from the National Cathedral Flower School.


Bennie demonstrated the art of English hand tied bouquets and delighted us with the history of that art form with humorous British anecdotes.

Bennie's hand tied bouquet!

Read Kathie's bio on how she was accepted to the flower school at the National Cathedral in Washington D. C.
Kathie Buntin, a Dothan native, worked in her family's tire business for 26 years, and caught the "flower bug" when she joined her church's Flower Guild over 20 years ago.  Periodically over those 20 years, flower arrangements of all types would come to life on the sales counter of the tire store.  Tire salesmen would stop and sometimes help create a " snowman"  made entirely from white carnations or a "potman" made from terracotta pots and moss, along with your everyday floral arrangements that began to number in the hundreds.

     Fueled by a passion for floral arranging, Kathie began to look for more intensive, in-depth training and found it one day while attending a church flower seminar in Fort Walton Beach, Florida.  The women from the Washington National Cathedral Flower Guild were presenting the program and mentioned the flower school at the National Cathedral.  Say no more!  The hook was set!

     This was no ordinary flower school.  Only 36 women were accepted each year from hundreds of applicants from every state in the United States.  One woman applied six times before she was accepted.  Having a business background, Kathie decided that the best way to get into that flower school was to call the director of the Flower Guild intending to sweet talk, cajole and "sell" herself into that school.  During the course of the conversation, as all sales tactics began to fail miserably, Kathie just happened to mention only in passing and rather apologetically, that her mother, Bennie, would be coming with her to the school, even though she wasn't on the Flower Guild and had no formal training whatsoever.  Several months later the acceptance notices arrived in the mail.

     One night at dinner at the school in Washington, Kathie and Bennie happened to be seated next to the director, and Bennie asked how the director ever managed to chose from so many applicants.  The director carefully explained that she tried to select equally from all regions of the United States along with other selection criteria.  Then she looked at Kathie and Bennie and said, "Oh, it was easy to choose you two."  Thinking it was her clever sales speech, Kathie sat up a little taller in her seat and waited.  The director said, "I lost my mother several months ago, and I thought it was so sweet that you were coming with your mother to the school.  We have never had a mother-daughter team before."  At this point, Kathie sank very low in her seat and Bennie rose to full height in hers.  Bennie never lets Kathie forget that if not for her, she would never have been accepted.  It might also be noteworthy to mention that Kathie was in the accounting part of the family business, not sales!

     There have been other flower schools since that one.  Judith Blacklock in Charleston, South Carolina and Jane Packer in New York City, but the Cathedral school will always be special to Kathie and Bennie.

     They do still have the flower school at the Cathedral.  One requirement for acceptance at the school was a promise that you would take all skills learned and share these when you return home.  True to their promises, Kathie and Bennie have done so.  They have presented flower talks to garden clubs and study clubs, sharing knowledge, flower secrets, and of course, the story of how Bennie got them into the Cathedral Flower School.

     Kathie has also started a new floral charity.  She takes the altar flowers from her church every week and reworks them into smaller arrangements for patients in nursing homes and hospice care.  Kathie has also gotten donations of wedding and event flowers to rework for patients.  As Kathie says, "I may not be a good salesman, but Mother taught me to always try and keep a promise."

Now that you have read Kathie's bio notice the clear substance in her container. I was not familiar with the product. It is a dry substance you mix with water and as it absorbs the water it expands and acts like an oasis to hold your flowers. You can find it at garden centers. It can also be used outdoors as a soil amendment to retain moisture.

She places her container on a turn table for easier placement of flower stems as she creates her design.

Voila! So chic! Katie suggested using orange slices or other fruit also.

These roses were beautiful. Container was bought at Michael's. Kathie is so generous which her knowledge and creativity.

She recommended several Jane Packer books and said  they are available at bookstores and Google Jane Packer and read her success story. She was hired at age 22 to design the bridal party flowers for Sarah Ferguson and Prince Andrew's wedding. She has flower schools in NewYork, Tokyo and London.   Kathie attended her New York school.                                                             

This is a wonderful design Kathie created last year for us at another program focusing on altar arrangements that she does as a flower guild member for her church. She learned these techniques at the National Cathedral. Isn't this design beautiful!
These two generous ladies have kept their promise to the National Cathedral to share  what skills they learned when they returned home.  Thank you Kathie and Bennie for a wonderful program.


  1. These arrangements are absolutely stunning and how prestigious to have designed the flowers for such a wedding! Wow! Thanks for sharing.

  2. How do I not know about Jane Packer? Fabulous arrangements!

    Thank you from the bottom of my heart for leaving such a supportive comment.

  3. How fun for your garden club to hear from Kathie & Bennie's experience at National Cathedral! I need to pop over to Amazon & read about this book! I just got a beautiful floral design one from Paula Pryke :-)


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