Le Jardin Francais is one of the most gorgeous floral shops I’ve ever stepped foot into. One day when I get around to finishing my Atlanta Guide, I’m going to include it in the list of places that you absolutely must visit on a trip into town. Walking into Le Jardin Francais is like walking into a greenhouse – light streams from the large street-facing windows, and flowers pop out of every corner while trees seem to grow right in the middle of their display tables. I had the opportunity to take one of their Floral Design Workshops earlier this April and took away some great lessons in arranging and flower care.
Marie-Laure, the owner, invited me to indulge in a Floral Design Workshop. When I said yes, my mind immediately began swimming with excitement over getting to have my pick of florals from Le Jardin Francais and couldn’t wait to bring my arrangement home. I didn’t anticipate learning more than a few arrangement tips from Marie- Laure her team.
Instead, you begin the class with a nibbling of pastries and coffee then we’re gathered around the workshop area to listen to why French flower arranging is different in application than traditional floral workshops.
Marie-Laure told us about the journey it takes to be a reputable florist in France. Students must attend formal schooling where they learn everything from growing and sourcing to pruning and arranging. Then they have apprenticeships, and finally, they’re permitted to practice on their own. The average student spends 4-6 years learning all the techniques needed to be a master florist.
After Marie-Laure took us on a tour around the store showing us the different varietals they had for us to work with, she collected a large bunch of flowers and started cutting and arranging her bouquet while we all stood back and watched in admiration.
She started placing each flower in the vase second nature as she continued to tell us the that where you source your flowers is just as important as putting your bouquet together. Sourcing flowers from a reputable grower will ensure that your bouquet will last as long as possible. Most flowers at your grocery store go from being cut in a field as a bud, to a cold dark truck, to a bright grocery store, to your table, and after all that shock, they die relatively quickly.
The first thing we learned was how to properly cut a stem. The problem with most homemade floral arrangements is that people use pruners to trim their flower ends, thus crushing the stalks and disabling them from drinking up water to stay alive. Marie-Laure showed us how to use a flower knife to expertly trim our stalks to size. Cutting your stem with a knife takes a certain finesse that may be dangerous in application at home. I highly recommend learning from an expert in real life, as you are cutting towards yourself. You also only want to cut soft stems. Hard stemmed flowers, from a branch like these dogwood blooms I used, should still be cut with pruning shears.
The next thing we learned was how to build the base for our flowers, and then how to create balance. Most of Le Jardin’s bouquets are very tidy and full with a lot of texture, so Marie-Laure helped us define our floral style while utilizing their tips. My floral aesthetic tends to be more on the wild and free side, but I was surprised to find that some structure helped elevate my bouquet to a more ethereal level.
For my bouquet, I chose a mix of antique pink hydrangeas, garden roses, white ranunculus (which surprisingly lasted for 3 weeks!), rice flower, pink dogwoods, and some greenery filler. All combined to create this gorgeous mix of wild and plump flowers.
I was surprised how quickly 3 hours zoomed by and at the end of the class, I left more knowledgeable and informed of the expertise that these women put into creating beautiful arrangements. If you are interested in a floral arranging course, the next one is in June and you can register here. If you are a floral enthusiast, I hope you have the opportunity to attend as you will learn how to apply these skills to any size arrangement in the future. It’s an experience unlike any other in Atlanta, and one that has equipped me with enough knowledge to confidently prepare florals at home, however when needed, I will still turn to the experts at Le Jardin Francais for arrangements.