By: Megan Ryan, The Battalion
When Mary Coffee, a senior, went to talk to her general studies adviser to discuss choosing a major, she had no idea what she wanted to do. As the adviser started throwing out ideas, Coffee was surprised to hear her say “floral design.” After declaring her major in horticulture, she entered the American Institute of Floral Design Student Competition and won third place for her design of a centerpiece for a sweetheart table.
“I felt like [horticulture] fell in my lap,” Coffee said. “I love it now. When I was living in the sorority house my sophomore year, I always gave out flowers to girls who were struggling with something. Then, I was talking to my adviser and she said ‘you can do anything you want; you can be an engineer, you can do floral design,’ and I just knew it was for me.”
B.J. Dyer, chairman of the American Institute of Floral Design Student Competition Committee, said the judging for the competition was technical, with points given for methodical use of color, depth, line, balance and proportion.
“In the category where Mary Coffee took her trophy, the competitors were asked to design a centerpiece for a sweetheart table, intended for a small wedding reception table seating just a bride and groom,” Dyer said.
Novice members of active Student American Institute of Floral Design Chapters with a GPA of 2.0 or higher and completion of 15 semester units were eligible for the competition.
“It was cool representing A&M at such a big organization and seeing how well-known A&M is there,” Coffee said. “My favorite part of the whole week was the last night. They turned all the lights down and had spotlights on all the centerpieces. It was amazing.”
There are four areas of the contest: buffet centerpiece, bridal bouquet, napkin rings and sweetheart centerpiece. Mary said she was able to win third place for the sweetheart centerpiece because her nerves had settled by the time she began work on it.
“Judges strive to set aside subjective opinions about the designs and will give high points for a well-executed design that may not be to their personal taste,” Dyer said.
Jim Johnson, distinguished lecturer in the horticulture department, was one of Mary’s teachers and helped her prepare for the competition.
“Mr. Johnson gave me all these flower magazines, and I would go through them everyday and keep getting different ideas,” Coffee said. “You know ahead of time what the grading rubric is, and I would practice.”
Johnson, who received the “distinguished service to the floral industry” award during his career, said the student chapter at A&M has been in existence since 1980, and students go to the competition every year.
“We have had in years past several winning students,” Johnson said. “So it’s the focus of our club. We work making floral designs, and the money we save is used to support and pay for the trip.”
The club creates buffet pieces and table centerpieces for banquets for the Office of the President, the Association of Former Students and many other departments and organizations.
“It is a way for the students to get some real-world practice for what they want to do in the future,” Johnson said.