Becketwood Cooperative
An Active, Independent 55+ Community of Owners in Minneapolis

Answering the Question…”Where did I learn to do Floral Arrangements?”

 by Barbara C. White, Becketwood Member

I broke the glass ceiling at age four.

The ceiling was just twelve inches off the ground, and I crashed down, not up.

It was an instant, horrifying surprise.   My dad's cold frames built to protect his pansies through the winter used hinged window panes as the cover.  I thought they would make a perfect skating pond, glistening with snow and sunlight.  I knew I had to confess to my parents.  They never punished me, and I have never forgotten.

I grew up in a small town in western Nebraska.  My parents formed a doctor and nurse team, converting our house into a maternity home for ten years before the hospital was built. They worked almost non-stop--delivering babies, caring for the mothers ten days after birth, and raising their own family of four children.  In the growing season my dad would slip into the garden as soon as the rising sun's rays penetrated the darkness to tend an abundance of flowers, vegetables, and fruit.

No one in our family "arranged" flowers.  My dad would cut a dozen bearded iris stems, each a different variety, and mom would put them into a tall vase in front of the large hallway mirror.  Multiply twelve stems with three or four iris per stem, and double that with a mirror.  The effect was magnificent.

My husband and I grew perennials and annuals, too, but we thought of them as landscaping color and texture and not table accents.  We used potted green foliage plants to soften the inside of our home and any "bouquets" were of a very minimalist nature.

When I moved to Becketwood in 2014, Maura Kolars, who had worked so closely with me in the purchase of my membership and unit, generously gave me support instead of mandates while my husband was being taken care of in an Alzheimer's unit in Bloomington.  However, as I found my emotional footing, she pressed me to remember my Becketwood responsibilities.  One of the two floral committees needed another pair of hands, so I began my induction with four  lovely women who work in bipartisan harmony making tough decisions. "Is this flower going to last a week on a dining room table?"  "What shall we do with the extra greenery?"  "It this bouquet too tall?"  Every query is solved with laughter, private comments that can't bear repeating, and pleasure as we work with our flowers.


It was in these circumstances that I began experimenting with textures, colors, and shapes in larger arrangements that were my responsibility every eight weeks.  I had brought with me from our Bloomington home a few vases that had served only as bookshelf accents.  Discovering the unique pottery pieces in Dock 6 Gallery has stimulated my imagination while slenderizing my pocketbook.  I begin a new arrangement by looking at possible color combinations or a different mix of textures.  Many times I play with the character of a piece of pottery.  I have discovered that what I imagine in my head is never the final results, for flowers have a way of taking on a life of their own. Like characters who develop independently of their author, flowers seem to take charge.

Sometimes what I do works, and sometimes an arrangement is off-balance in a way I am unable to correct.  Sometimes an arrangement improves as I pull out dying blossoms and rework what is left.

In the future I will test ideas gleaned from a three-hour session called "Bring Your Own Vase" presented by Bachman's floral designers.  Flowers are perishable and expensive, so designers waste nothing, even the cellophane sleeves that customers use to protect their flowers on the ride home.  Watch for a winter arrangement that appears to be in a vase of ice.  I was surprised at some of the designing tips suggested to the class.

I am having fun with flowers and friends.  If our two flower committees can bring a little brightness to your day, we are heartened to do so.  Thanks, Becketwood members, for being appreciative observers.

(Oh, yes, we don't break glass, but we do spill water!)


Leave a Reply

  • Judy A Wing November 22, 2016, 5:47 pm

    Barbara, your creative bouquets delight me and brighten my days. As do you. Thanks, jude

  • linda November 22, 2016, 6:36 pm


  • carol bechtel November 22, 2016, 9:03 pm

    Raw talent,obviously, because I thought you had been honing your techniques for decades. Love your arrangements! And you write equally well.

  • Judy solmonson November 22, 2016, 11:45 pm

    Your unusual flower arrangements bring such spark and personality that complement your many vases. Thank you so much.

  • Dorothy dj November 23, 2016, 1:14 am

    A delightful explanation of your expertise in flower arranging. It is appreciated by all at Becketwood.

  • Jerry Nordstrom November 27, 2016, 2:46 am

    Flower arrangement is an art, and you have an artist’s eye. We all need art — art of all kinds!

  • Nancy Christen November 27, 2016, 3:39 am

    You are an accomplished artist with flowers Barbara and I thought you had been doing it all your life! And now we see you have a talent for writing as well. I love stopping to enjoy your arrangements. Thanks for your efforts!

  • Nancy Larson December 1, 2016, 1:47 am

    What fun to read this. Your new-found love of flower arranging is amazing!
    Those at Becketwood do not know of the AMAZING perennial garden you and Carl had in Bloomington. It was worthy of the U of M Arboretum garden tour!
    Nancy, not yet a Becketwood resident, but frequent visitor.

  • Ingrid Stocking December 18, 2016, 5:46 pm

    I’m ashamed to admit that this is the first BW blog I have read. What a jewel! Thanks for your endless creativity and generosity. I will always think of your father’s greenhouse. There’s a background to every creation…

  • Lorene Liddle April 25, 2018, 1:20 pm

    Love your reflection and LOVE your flowers and arrangements. You are so very creative!! Thank you,
    Lorene Liddle