Atlanta florists blossom

Ellie Butterfield

Emmie Poth-Nebel

 

3ten

 

At-home florist Cathy Brim is no stranger to floristry. In fact, she’s been fascinated with the intricacy and beauty of flowers since the fifth grade.

“[My class] did a project to make dictionaries, and I chose to do mine on flowers. I drew pictures and wrote the definitions for them,” she said.

After graduating from college, Brim started working in a friend’s flower shop before opening her own business.

“I loved customers and the flowers, but after having my first child, I wanted a more flexible schedule,” she said. “My friend’s shop was in Roswell, and I didn’t want to continue commuting. Eventually, I said, ‘I think I’m ready. I know what I’m doing enough to start something in Decatur.’”

Brim offered floral services to restaurants, hair salons and art galleries. She reeled in two clients on the first day.

Now, her clients range from locals to corporations. Weddings and corporate events, she said, are “just more fun.”

“I just like having a cohesive look with lots of pieces instead of one here, one there,” she said. “My last big event was at the Georgia Aquarium. It looked like an underwater scene, with origami fish and sea creatures.”

Her favorite weddings are “the ones that turn out well. When the flowers are where they’re supposed to be, everything is beautiful.”

Brim can’t be tied down to just one flower, though.

“[My favorite flower] changes,” she said. “I just walk into the cooler and I look around, and if something looks extra beautiful, extra vibrant, extra colorful that day, those are the flowers I choose.”

While floral design appears simple, creating a solid look is no easy task.

“Arranging can be stressful. It’s rewarding when everything is placed, where the wedding staff worked really hard in a really short time frame because the flowers are really fresh.”

To ease the stress, her children, senior Boyd and freshman Anna, help in the backyard cottage that serves as Cathy’s workspace.

“Boyd helps unload and load flowers,” she said. “Anna has helped me do some presentation bouquets and processed flowers.” After giggling to herself, she added, “They get involved, but I don’t think either one is going to become a floral designer.”

unnamed-2 copy

Atlanta-based florist Allison Song was destined for floral design.

“My Korean name is ‘Jangmi,’ which means rose,” Song said. “I’ve always felt like flowers were part of my identity.”

After teaching English for a year in South Korea, Song started appreciating floral design.

“I love the way flowers bring so much joy to others, and [I] wanted to be a part of that experience,” she said.

Song’s love affair with flower arrangements grew. After reaching out and interning for numerous wedding vendors, she eventually “made the jump” to solo design.

The Atlanta community greeted Song’s transition to in-bloom florist with open arms.

“I was definitely welcomed with an encouraging embrace,” she said. “I felt nothing but love from them.”

Although Song prioritizes marital floral arrangements, she is “also very hands-on with other design elements.” She helps clients source linens, lighting, draping and furniture, and tries to offer her best suggestions “so the whole vibe of the wedding is consistent.”

“I love weddings that are more DIY because it allows the couple’s personalities to really shine through,” she said. “So whether it takes place at a farm or in an industrial warehouse, it really depends on the couple I’m working with.”

When designing bouquets, Song honors the way flowers grow naturally and creates “organic, wild and free” arrangements. Her favorite flowers include peonies, dahlias, ranunculus and garden roses. She says garden roses “are great to work with because they are sturdy and give off the most beautiful scent.”

Song wants her own flower farm “to create the beauty from the source.” She dreams of arranging home-grown flowers for others to enjoy.

“I definitely believe that flowers have the power to encourage others through their natural beauty and aura,” she said. “I haven’t met a single person who doesn’t smile when they receive flowers.”

23ten

A trellis draped with fairy lights adorns the entrance, and a large chalkboard welcomes shoppers. It reads, “locally grown flowers are amazingly and heartbreakingly beautiful, especially those we grow ourselves.”

French Market Flowers, a small floral boutique tucked away inside Atlanta’s Krog Street Market, is Renfroe teacher Cindy Tarrant’s second home.

Tarrant and her husband opened the market in Nov. 2014 and specialized in weddings, proms and individual bouquets. They also pioneered Atlanta’s “local flower movement,” in which farmers grow and sell their own flowers.

Tarrant discovered her admiration for flowers after searching for a creative outlet in agriculture.

“At first I just wanted to be a farmer, but I realized there was a niche for flowers,” she said. “I started reading everything I could about [flower farming], and I just loved it, so I started growing flowers.”

Tarrant’s week is always packed. She spends seven hours teaching at Renfroe and at least another two at her store. Weekends don’t get much easier, but “Sunday? That’s for planting.”

She separates school-life from flower-life through “compartmentalization.”

“When I’m at school, I focus on school,” she said. “Then, I come to the shop and try to focus on it. Trying to teach and do flowers together – it’s just too hard.”

While Tarrant separates her occupations, the Decatur community promotes and encourages her business to thrive.

“Some teachers order weekly flowers, so I deliver to them,” she said. “Sometimes old students come by. They’re either shocked, or they’re like ‘oh, you and your flower shop,’” she said. “They think it’s funny that I have a flower shop. People like to come by and see me, and I like that.”

As Atlanta’s first farmer-florist, Tarrant hopes to expand awareness of the movement. For her, a caring, educated and encouraging public unites the community and keeps local florists up and running.

“Grocery stores selling flowers from California put a lot of florists out of business,” she said. “You can buy roses at the store for 10 dollars. Buying flowers for resale costs more than that.”

Since she grows and arranges her own flowers, Tarrant’s inventory depends on the season. She grows larkspur in the spring, garden roses in the summer and dahlias alongside most other flowers in the fall.

As for her arrangements, she describes her aesthetic as “asymmetrical,” “natural,” and “flowy.” She even uses “what some people call weeds.”

In the future, Tarrant hopes to “find more time for planting,” arranging and furthering the local flower movement.

“You know, doing arrangements and being creative, that’s the best part of being a florist,’ she said. “Floral design gave me a chance to do art and not be bad at it.”