Rohnert Park floral designer shares the art of flower arranging

Floral designer Lorrie Abbott loves nothing more than adding a little cheer to living spaces and workplaces.

Even better, she enjoys guiding others through the creative process of using flowers, greenery, and decorative objects to create seasonal floral arrangements.

Abbott, 71, has been running floral design classes for more than 20 years, mostly through the community services department at Rohnert Park.

“Most (students) have no experience, but at the end of the course they are totally amazed that they have put together something so beautiful,” she said.

Abbott believes floral designs – whether soft and tiny or exotic and over the top – can lift the spirits and add beauty anywhere. Even a few cut flowers carefully placed in a vase can do the trick.

His classes give participants the basics to make their own arrangements. She also teaches wedding design workshops, sharing tips for making corsages, boutonnieres, table decorations and bouquets.

“It’s the work of my heart,” Abbott said. “If I could have done this all my life, I would have.”

She got into floral design by chance. A longtime teacher’s aide and school administrative secretary who retired in 2011, she was at work when a colleague started showing up with beautiful flower arrangements every week.

The colleague was taking floristry classes at Santa Rosa Junior College, and Abbott decided to enroll as well.

“I wanted to do this. It looked like fun,” Abbott said.

Immediately she was hooked. She took nearly every course offered, eventually earning a certificate in floral design.

The creative outlet also helped Abbott work through his divorce after nearly 24 years of marriage.

“I was trying to find myself,” she said. “I was the mother of my children and the wife of my husband.”

Abbott was doing office work for the city of Santa Rosa when she first tested her floral design skills. She volunteered to do the table arrangements for an awards banquet, much to the delight of city officials.

In 2000, she put her talents to use in the city’s Rose Parade, supervising the floral work of a float carrying the Santa Rosa City Council.

She rallied 10 floral design friends from SRJC and together they incorporated “hundreds and hundreds” of roses into the float. Their effort did not go unnoticed – it won the trophy for Best Use of Roses.

“My heart was bursting,” Abbott said of the experience.

She approaches each floral job with the same enthusiasm. She particularly enjoys doing floral design for weddings, 30 to date.

Her first marriage was to her son, Aaron De La Montanya, in 1998. Several years later, she took on floral design responsibilities when her daughter Carrie De La Montanya married.

She had no hesitation in managing her children’s marriages; she was thrilled to create a beautiful showcase for them and their spouses.

“It was one of my gifts for them,” she said.

Describing herself as a “perfectionist” when it comes to floral design, Abbott strives to make her customers happy. All of her wedding work is done by word of mouth, which the designer finds flattering.

She likes couples to include something special or sentimental in their floral designs. One bride asked to have her grandmother’s jeweled brooch in her bouquet, another a keepsake necklace.

A bridal party wanted to help with the table arrangements. The bride and her attendants visited Abbott’s home in Rohnert Park, where she is handling all her arrangements, and kept busy.

“It was like a class,” Abbott said. “They were so excited that they were able to participate.”

She enjoys sharing her talents with others, giving them tools they can use for other floral projects at home.

His classes include step-by-step demonstrations and instructions, with Abbott encouraging students to follow his patterns while bringing a personal touch to their work.

Although she prefers an abundance of flowers, some students are more reserved, using fewer flowers but still achieving attractive results.

Abbott shares tried-and-true design patterns — “a square within a square within a square, getting smaller as you go up” — but knows that each arrangement will be unique to the designer.

She may have a dozen students using the same materials, but no two designs will be identical.

“I tell people, ‘You are the creator. You choose how you want to do it. I’ll give you the pattern, but it’s up to you,’?” she said.

Abbott’s holiday-themed courses are particularly popular. This year, her classes at Rohnert Park include Valentine’s Day, Easter, Mother’s Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas themes.

Arrangements typically feature greenery, basic flowers like carnations, mini carnations, and mums, as well as special flowers and seasonal decorations ranging from puffed hearts and polystyrene Easter eggs to plastic spiders and baubles. of Christmas.

The arrangements all include bows, but Abbott prepares them before class from the extensive collection of ribbons she keeps at home.

“Every arrangement has some sort of arc, but they hate doing the arcs,” she said. She now teaches classes only on arch design – fun for those who want to try.

Another class of design showcases a large bow – but not a single flower. Students use an ice pick, toothpicks and around 100 corks to assemble onto a straw wreath frame, changing the bows according to the seasons. She offered her homage to Wine Country as another way to work creatively and reuse wine corks.

Among the joys she has discovered, Abbott derives great satisfaction when her flower students marvel at their own abilities.

“They take pictures and send them to friends and put them on Facebook,” she said. “It makes me feel so good to do this. Guess I need that adoration to do that.

Lorrie Abbott will teach “Valentine’s Day Arrangement” from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the Rohnert Park Community Center, 5401 Snyder Lane. The cost is $20, plus a $15 hardware fee. For more information or to register, call 707-588-3456 or visit

Contact Towns Correspondent Dianne Reber Hart at [email protected]

Rosalie M. Dehner