After a long day at the studio, I often catch myself wondering about the flower orders that I created that day. How was my art received for all those birthdays, anniversaries, funerals, and “I screwed up, so here are flowers, Sweetheart” orders?

Did they arrive with the sender’s intention and all the heart I put into them? Sitting at the bench going through the orders, I am so grateful I get to translate that connection and emotion with colour, fragrance, and structure. But we often take those moments for granted, leading to what’s known as burnout.

I have been in so many shops where designers get the phone call with the request, “do something really nice.” We laugh and say, “Oh okay, I was gonna make something really ugly, but since they said ‘something nice,’ let’s try to do something different.”
We are surrounded by beauty every day, but then a thorn gets us, heavy buckets break our backs, and we are on our feet all day creating for people we may never hear from.

Many of us in the floral industry adopt the adage “no news is good news,” but silence can be a double-edged sword. Yeah, it’s great to have no complaints, but without feedback, we don’t know if we nailed the order or not.

I remember crying as I put together a beautiful arrangement to ease the pain for a mother who lost her baby and dancing excitedly at the bench during an “OMG, you got the job!” Both were life-changing experiences and I felt humbled to be a part of them.

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Of course, there are plenty of those puzzling, frustrating orders like, “something different, modern, and chic in a traditional basket” or “a design with pink flowers that is elegant and big and beautiful for $40.” We shake our heads and try to connect to the order but if you’ve fallen victim to burnout, you just grab some flowers, shove them in the vase, stick a label on it, and get it out the door as quickly as possible.

If you find yourself in this position or you see your staff displaying signs of burnout, here are a few ways I fight the urge to abandon restraint and snap at ridiculous cheapskates with, “Can I ask if you are gonna super size the fries for your anniversary too?!”

Our job is to create it all—high-end, glamorous pieces and modest arrangements alike—and we can do it. When you step back and see that $40 vase arrangement, you may be surprised to discover it IS elegant, big, and beautiful. Take satisfaction in knowing that your expertise gave that customer exactly what he needed.

On Canada Day, I was privileged to go and hand out flowers in Ottawa and film the experience. It was Canada’s 150th birthday and, with the JHProject (a television show I’m working on) in full swing, we had Gatto Flowers and Fair Trade Floral donate tons of flowers, which I handed out to the crowds of people celebrating our country’s independence! I danced, sang our national anthem, and approached them with blooms to celebrate, and the reaction was amazing. It’s easy to forget when you are on the bench how moving it is to receive flowers. Some of the responses I heard included the following:

“I never get flowers!”
“You made my day”
“This flower was my mom’s favourite”
“I love flowers”

People from every culture, race, religion, and background embraced the flowers and opened up to me. I heard their stories and listened to why they loved flowers and what they would do with them. Flowers have a way of bridging gaps, allowing us to recall memories, and connecting with people.
Suffice it to say, completing the cycle and actually giving away the flowers I made was an incredibly fulfilling experience.

I suggest that, every once in a while, you take the opportunity to deliver an order yourself. It will fill you up and remind you that our work matters. Hang around at a wedding and see the bride carrying your bouquet. It’s amazing!

Burnout happens when you lose track of your purpose and no longer get inspired. Get tickets to design shows like the CAFA workshop with Roman Steinhauer (October 22 and 23). Hofland had a wonderful workshop night this past spring and I was excited for weeks after. If you are not able to go to something like this, then at least go online and be inspired by artists on Instagram. Better yet, call up someone who inspires you and get together. Talk about why you do what you do and exchange ideas. Poppy Parsons, AIFD, CAFA, and I did this a few months ago.

I spent this past summer travelling. Throughout my journeys, I stopped in flower shops all over our great country and talked with people. Everyone has ideas. Sometimes, when you see what excites others, you’ll catch their fire too.

Burnout is something that happens to all of us from time to time—for a moment, a day, a week, or longer. Fight it by making a concerted effort to inspire your staff and yourself. Connect with your clients, connect with your employees, and connect with your own aspirations. Be the inspiring designer and artist you always wanted to be. I look forward to following you on social media so you can add to my inspiration. Find me on Instagram @jenniferharveycafa.

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Jennifer Harvey
Jennifer Harvey is the owner of Jennifer Harvey Designs and Beleafs Home and Garden Care in Brockville, Ontario.

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