floral arrangement in a brown vase with small bamboo rods and yellow and orange flowers hanging at the top of the rods

A Floral Design Journey

By Cres Motzi AIFD, on

How does one chronicle a floral design journey? For me, what started out as something fun to do after my husband’s job relocation became a meaningful second career. It became a journey that meandered through time and brought me to unexpected and wonderful places, including my time at Longwood working toward my Certificate of Merit in Floral Design, to my time on a European floral design study tour that led to the realization of Dutch floral design diplomas, to returning to Longwood as a floral design instructor, in addition to many other endeavors and stops along the way. Next up on this journey are my upcoming series of classes at Longwood, which include an exploration of the roots of floral design and its evolution over the centuries while I create more than 10 arrangements to help demonstrate my own journey as a floral designer; a hands-on session on putting a modern twist of a typically symmetrical and formal design; and another hands-on session navigating the latest cutting-edge floral design techniques.


My growth and development as a floral artist were both blessed by nature and nurture. My late father was a painter. Sketching and painting from life was his usual practice. His subjects included countless specimens from the botanical realm, ranging from the home-grown to whatever were available at local markets. I had watched him practice his craft all my life. Maybe that rubbed off on me or I have inherited a bit of his artistic genes. My mother was a gardener and an excellent craftswoman who studied horticulture. Doing craft projects and dabbling in gardening with her are treasured memories. I gained an appreciation for all things of nature and the arts and crafts from my parents—a great foundation for any flower arranger.

two people at a desk with one watching the other paint

Watching my father at work. Photo provided by Cres Motzi.

a person at a table arranging orange flowers and leaves in a vase

Mother enjoying flowers from my garden. Photo by Cres Motzi.

My floral design education started with a course at a vocational-technical school in Cincinnati. The volunteer training program at the arboretum there also included a segment on floral design. A job change put a pause on my growing interest in flower arranging until we moved to Chester County, Pennsylvania, almost ten years later. We had visited and enjoyed Longwood Gardens before our move, but I hadn’t realized the breadth of Longwood’s educational offerings. I started studies for my Certificate of Merit in Floral Design in 2002 with the Basic 1 Floral Design class. Soon after I landed a floral design job at a local shop and attended every Longwood class that was on offer. Practicing was essential in honing my skills and working seemed to be a good way to accomplish that. Receiving the Longwood certificate in 2003 was a highlight in my budding career, and it deepened my desire to keep learning and growing.

During my time as a student at Longwood, I had always wanted to take part in a European study tour. However, schedule conflicts always got in the way. In 2006, I decided to venture out on my own. As a starter, attending the Boerma Instituut in Holland was scary. It was one of those “jump in with both feet” moments. I was stretched in all the good ways and had fun learning with classmates from different corners of the world. One of the hands-on projects gave us an opportunity to work as teams to create the display for a wholesale florist. Talk about pressure! Another was to decorate a car. It was gratifying to successfully complete the coursework for professional and advanced Dutch floral design diplomas. Not to mention the benefits of living with a warm and welcoming host family: a behind-the-scenes tour of the Aalsmeer Flower Auction, a tour of the region on their boat, visits to museums and places off the beaten path. It was another highlight in my continuing journey.

a person holding a bouquet of large green leaves and palm fronds

A bridal bouquet I created for Advanced Dutch Floral Design exam— more suitable for an extremely tall bride, not so much for my 5-foot half-inch frame. Photo provided by Cres Motzi.

a black VW car decorate with red, yellow, and orange flowers on top of the rood and hood

Floral car decorations--a team project for my Advanced Dutch Floral Design Course. Photo by Cres Motzi.

A phone call in 2009 from Joan McClintock, who was Longwood’s Continuing Education coordinator at the time, opened yet another door—this time as a floral design instructor. I had taught in other settings, and I came from a family of educators—my parents and sister had been school teachers. It was a natural progression, and I gladly accepted the honor and challenge. I have been teaching ever since.

a geometric floral arrangment design of a variety of flowers including mums and roses - all shaped like a diamond in a black vase with black background

Above is my interpretation of a geometric design, crafted with a mix of roses, mums, orchids, crepe myrtle, hydrangea, zinnia, ferns, and more. Photo provided by Cres Motzi.

Living in this area, one cannot miss the Philadelphia Flower Show. The major exhibits and the floral design classes attracted me from the start. I never dreamed that I would become an accredited member; but, in 2010, I was inducted into the American Institute of Floral Design. It provided many opportunities: learning from American and world-class designers at the annual national symposia while assisting them in their stage presentations, attending stage presentations and hands-on workshops, working alongside wonderful artists in bringing the vision of the Philadelphia Flower Show exhibit to life ... the learning continued.

As a personal challenge, I submitted entries to International Floral Art Annual 2010/11, the Jubilee Edition of International Floral Art 2014/15, and Artistic Floral Design 2020. It’s wonderful to have works included in these publications.

modern tropical floral arrangement with red and orange flowers atop twigs and sticks

The above tropical nouveau design, which is a mix of tropical and temperate flowers, is foam-free and uses glass tubes … speaking to the hot topic of sustainability, which will be covered in both the October 27 and October 28 workshops at Longwood. Photo provided by Cres Motzi.

A teacher should endeavor to be a continual learner—to gain new ideas, to learn new techniques, to stay on trend—in order to teach from a wellspring of knowledge. My own education continued as I studied Sogetsu Ikebana with the late Midori Tanimune, Komon. With a like-minded group of flower-arranging friends, I traveled within the US or abroad to study—with German master Gregor Lersch at his five-day five-stories seminar; French designer Marie-Françoise Déprez; Dutch designer Erik von Heist; a multi-part European Master Program with Belgian designer Tomas de Bruyne and Hitomi Gilliam AIFD; an almost annual study with Soho Sakai, Riji, AIFD; and a 2019 trend summit hosted by Hitomi Gilliam AIFD and Colin Gilliam. Online platforms have also provided opportunities to study with international teachers easily.

a white and tan vase with grass bended to form a spiral coming out of the top of the vase

One of my designs from Marie-Françoise Déprez’s workshop, in which I practiced the technique of binding stems of flexi grass to form a spiral. Photo by Cres Motzi.

My floral design journey has been fun and adventurous. I have been blessed with numerous opportunities to help me grow and develop as a designer. I am looking forward to the next chapters as they unfold … including the three opportunities to learn, grow, and design together this October. Happy flowering to all!

Editor’s note: Join Cres Motzi AIFD for her upcoming October learning opportunities. On October 27, take a trip through time with Motzi and see how modern floral design techniques have emerged from historic principles and philosophy with A Floral Journey. Join us onsite for this engaging class, which includes a complimentary wine and cheese reception in our Conservatory and a silent auction for Motzi’s designs, or join us online via livestream. On October 28, join us for A Classic Fan with a Modern Twist, and create a sophisticated fan-shaped design perfect for display at home. Also on October 28, explore a variety of floral design trends, techniques, and materials with Catch the Current, and then create an arrangement showcasing your own design signature to take home. Registration is required for all courses.

Categorized Under:

Related Articles