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CIFD 30th Anniversary, Alexandra Farms Design Contest

Three decades ago, Don Waltho, the Canadian Institute of Floral Design’s founder and managing director, secured the school’s first location at 4812 Yonge Street (at the Sheppard Subway) in Toronto.

“We had the original Kane Funeral Home Mansion,” Waltho said. “We lasted five years at this prominent address.” He still jokes about this with the students, saying, “an elevator was provided—but you had to lay down to use it!”

More than 4,000 graduates later, CIFD continues to grow at its current address, 2794 Lakeshore Blvd. West, in Toronto. “We have so many international students now, and the close proximately to Toronto’s Pearson Airport is perfect,” said Melissa Cristina, CIFD’s program coordinator. CIFD also provides a home-stay program so students have a nearby place to live during the three-week course.

Floristry has been a lifelong affair for Waltho. His father, William, owned Avenue Flower Shop in Toronto in the 1960s. “I was born in the cooler!” he said. He worked as a retail florist for five years and as a wholesaler for another two years. “I remember working with the best designers of the time—Bruce Philpott, Jane Swain, Bill Morrow, and Peter Cantly—helping each other on different events and occasions,” he said. “The floral brotherhood was amazing!”

Waltho launched CIFD after instructing at a Toronto floral school that only offered a 40-hour professional program. CIFD’s 105-hour professional program offers an intense, hands-on curriculum that’s completed in three weeks. “It’s the only school of its type,” Cristina said. CFID is Canada’s only stand-alone, professional floral design school that is registered by the Ministry of Education, Colleges and Universities. This not only allows tuitions to be fully tax-deductible, but it also allows for government funding and grants. Students under the age of 30 can qualify for free tuition; additionally, this program will subsidize any employer who hires a newly trained graduate.

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Cristina is CIFD’s newest instructor. A 2010 CIFD graduate, she previously worked for notable flower shops and prestigious design studios in Toronto. Her designs have appeared in Martha Stewart Weddings magazine. Other instructors include CIFD alumnae Sarah Wu and Tamae Miazaki, and Rada Ristich, the former owner of Peter Paul’s Flower Shop in Toronto. Ristich’s display recently won “Best in Show” at Canada Blooms. She teaches intermediate and European designs and offers insight into starting and operating a retail flower shop.

“We are so proud of the team we have developed,” Waltho said. “Students, graduates, and industry experts will confirm they are the best. I get emotional when I reflect on our past 30 years. We would not have survived if we hadn’t been surrounded by the best designers and great individuals.”

For more information about CIFD, call 416-733-9968 or email

Alexandra Farms Design Contest

Alexandra Farms is holding a garden rose design contest, which runs from March 1 to June 30. “This will allow florists to submit pictures from the work they do early this summer,” said Alexandra Farms President Joey Azout.

The contest has two categories: garden roses in everyday work and garden roses in a wedding bouquet. There will be three winners for each category. The prizes are as follows:

  • First Place

    An all-expense paid trip to Alexandra Farms in Colombia—or the monetary equivalent

  • Second Place

    1000 free roses (including freight)

  • Third Place

    500 free roses (including freight)

Three judges will vote on the designs. One will be from Florists’ Review magazine, one will be from Alexandra Farms, and one will be a floral designer. The winning designs will be featured in industry magazines and on Alexandra Farms’ social media accounts.

Alexandra Farms is the world’s largest grower of cut garden roses, offering designers 50 varieties, including 12 bred by David Austin in England.

Katie Hendrick
Katie Hendrick is the editor-in-chief of Canadian Florist.

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