Article and photos by Shirley Culpin.
All it took was an ad in the local newspaper to launch the Mid Island Floral Art Club, combined with the determination of one woman.
“The Floral Art Club is really an offshoot of the Eaglecrest Garden Club,” says founding president Lynn Bonner. “The Eaglecrest club was being run by men, who weren’t interested in having any guest speakers lecturing on flower arranging. So, I placed an ad in November in the local paper to see if there was any interest. By January I had had 100 phone calls.”
Styles and symmetry
Now into its 22nd year, the Floral Art Group meets on the second Thursday of each month in the spacious hall at St. Stephen’s United Church in Qualicum Beach. Its 36 members participate in a wide variety of activities involving the floral arts.
The monthly meeting schedule includes variable activities, thanks to the efforts of the club’s program committee.
Some meetings may focus on a seasonal theme, with members bringing their own materials and doing hands-on work that results in a myriad of intriguing arrangements reflecting the time of year or a special event. These sessions include ‘conversations’ with Margaret Leeuw, one of the club’s more experienced members. She helps those creating to establish pleasing styles and symmetry in their living works of art. Margaret prefers not to call her assistance a critique, which can seem intimidating to some. Instead, she will stand by quietly as an arrangement is being constructed and discuss the various aspects as the creative process moves along.
Some meetings are scheduled as ‘all inclusive’ months, where the club provides all the materials for an arrangement for a fixed price. Each member signing up for these opportunities is given the same set of supplies to create her own unique floral interpretation.
“It’s always interesting to see the wide variety of arrangements that come out of these meetings, considering that everyone basically has the same starting point,” says club president Deanne Sykes.
Some of the club meetings feature guest speakers or demonstrations, so there is always something new and fresh on the agenda.
“We had a demonstration recently,” says Sykes, “and we had over 60 people attend. And the beauty of those events is that we get to raffle off the finished product at the end of it, and some lucky person gets to take it home.”
In addition to the actual meeting, the monthly gathering in the roomy hall features the opportunity to purchase reasonably priced basic supplies. A newly-instigated Members’ Marketplace features items such as containers that a member may no longer have use for, and offers for sale, with the money going back to the contributor.
At present, the Club is comprised of 36 members who hail from as far south as Nanaimo, west to Port Alberni and north to Bowser. New members and guests often sit in the gallery for a few meetings to observe the proceedings before getting ‘stuck in’ with the hands-on activities, but everyone is made to feel welcome by the friendly group. Although the Mid Island Floral Art Club may not be particularly high-profile, the work of its members can be seen in a variety of local venues throughout the year.
Milner Gardens is a particularly lucky recipient of the club members’ talents. Several of them provide the floral arrangements for the beautiful Milner home, and the tea room within.
“Most of the materials for those arrangements come from our own gardens,” says Sykes. “There isn’t a lot at Milner for us to use, and rhododendrons (a main floral feature at Milner) don’t last particularly well in arrangements.”
Members also participate in many of Milner’s other big events, providing interesting additions to the forest, pond and great lawn on the property. The Art and Photography In The Garden event also features work by the club members.
The Art in Bloom fixture organized by The Old School House (TOSH) in Qualicum Beach is another showcase for the club members’ talents. Each winter, a dozen of the club’s stalwarts create Christmas wreaths, which go on display at TOSH and are offered for sale, either by set price or silent auction. Proceeds from the sale go to the creator or are donated to the charity of the wreath-maker’s choice. This year’s wreath event runs from November 19 – December 21 and will feature wreaths in a wide variety of styles and sizes.
Perhaps one of the least-known but most charming activities of the Mid Island Floral Art Club, is its annual Lonely Bouquet event, held in July. Part of a movement to brighten the lives of a diverse population, Lonely Bouquet Day is held world-wide.
The Mid Island group participates by gathering for a garden party in July, with each person bringing along containers and floral materials from their own gardens. Each member creates between one and five bouquets and attaches a note to the effect that the flowers are a lonely bouquet needing a loving home.
From there, the arrangements are randomly distributed by the ladies who create them, simply to bring a smile to someone’s face and brighten their day. Club members anonymously distribute their cheerful creations everywhere from picnic tables, park benches and campsites to seniors’ care homes.
“We get such tremendous feedback on this activity,” says Sykes, “Especially now, with social media. It’s testament to the power of flowers. It’s so great to hear of the happiness our efforts bring.”