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Floral Design

Agriculture is an Art

Starting his floral career at the age of three, Russell Plowman had a clear-cut plan for what he wanted to do with his life. As an instructor of horticulture in Texas Tech University’s College of Agricultural Sciences & Natural Resources, Plowman has been able to follow his passions and share them with his students.

“I knew early on what I was going to do. I didn’t have a choice,” Plowman said. “One of my first memories is planting Marigolds.”

Plowman’s interest in plants and flowers led him to Texas Tech to get his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in ornamental horticulture. After college, Plowman opened his own floral shop and worked as a designer for many years. This led him to become a Certified Floral Designer and join the American Institute of Floral Design. Eventually, he returned to Texas Tech to work on his Ph.D. and serve as an instructor in the plant and soil science department.

“I knew early on what I was going to do. I didn’t have a choice.”

Russell Plowman

With all that comes with being a student, teacher and researcher, he let go of his certification and membership with AIFD to focus on teaching and earning his degree. Plowman still exercises his creative side by doing landscapes for clients around Lubbock, as well as teaching his popular floral design class.

“Word of mouth,” Plowman said when asked how he finds clients. “Each client helps me bring something new to teaching.”

Plowman has been instrumental in developing the curriculum for the floral design program. What once was only a lab for horticulture students is now an always full, creative arts credit open to anyone in the university. Plowman fought hard to get the class to where it is, writing and rewriting proposals, and finding what would work to make the class a well-rounded experience for students at Texas Tech.

“It took two semesters of working to rewrite it and getting it submitted,” Plowman said. “One of the comments was ‘nothing creative could ever come out of agriculture.’”

Despite what people have said about agriculture and art, agriculture can be creative and it often offers better experiences while learning.

“I took art as a creative arts credit and all I had to do was identify some paintings,” Kinnidy Markum, a former student said. “With floral design I felt like I was actually putting the concepts I learned about to use.”

Kolbie Tyler, Russell Plowman, and Alicia Thomas
Russell Plowman (middle) with Texas Tech graduate student, Kolbie Tyler (left) and instructor of horticulture, Alicia Thomas (right). Picture provided by Kolbie Tyler.

Each semester Plowman fills classrooms with students eager to learn about floral design. Thanks to its popularity, classes have increased over the years.

“When I took the class there were 20 students a year and now there are 80 or more a semester,” teaching assistant Kolbie Tyler said.

The lectures address the artistic concepts and history of floral design, while the lab teaches care and design techniques as students work with live flowers. Thanks to Plowman, those who take the class are eligible to become a certified floral designer in Texas.

“I want to teach an upper-level class soon as a service-learning class,” Plowman said. “That way, once they know techniques and designs, they can turn around and do a presentation to local florist.”

After each semester, Plowman modifies and improves the classroom experience for students. Plowman wants to give students the best learning experience that he can provide.

“I have proposed that I will teach every other class, and in between me, have other designers,” Plowman said. “I think that would just be wonderful.”

Russell Plowman giving feedback to a student during the floral design class’s design showcase. Picture provided by Kolbie Tyler.

Plowman recently became a second time Certified Floral Designer and member of the American Institute of Floral Design, which has never been done before.

“I reapplied and did it all over again,” Plowman said.

To become a CFD, you must demonstrate a thorough knowledge of floral design and be able to pass that onto students. Becoming a member of AIFD is no easy feat either, as it is one of the highest honors to have in the floral design industry. Each member must go in front of a jury of peers who judge their floral designs.

“You’re competing with all different kinds of people from all over the world,” Plowman said. “You go into a room; you don’t know what kind of flowers you’re going to get or design you’re going to have to make.”

While creativity and thorough knowledge of concepts is important, AIFD is committed to education as well.

“AIFD is all about education and treating floral design as an art,” Plowman said.

Being committed to continue getting accreditations to better serve students is just one of the many reasons Texas Tech is lucky to have an instructor like Russell Plowman.

“I’ve planted something my whole life,” Plowman said.

While Plowman could take the easy road and focus on one task at a time, he is committed to his aspirations as well as being the best instructor he can be.

Old Course, New Credits

April showers bring Mayflowers; springtime brings the gardener out in most people. In the spring, people begin to plant seeds and the flowers begin to bloom with help from the bright sun and a little bit of water. Fancy floral arrangements are often given for Valentines Day, birthdays and anniversaries. Decorations at funerals, weddings and banquets are often thought to be some flowers thrown in water. People do not appreciate the skill of floral design. Creating a memorable and beautiful floral arrangement takes artistic skill, and more people are getting involved in the newly established degree program art of floral design.

The Department of Plant and Soil Sciences at Texas Tech University now offers classes to learn how to properly arrange floral arrangement as a specialization. Institutions including Texas Tech, are seeing the demand for the art of floral design. The Department of Plant and Soil Sciences has offered floral design classes for years but recently began offering the course as an art credit. Ed Plowman, an instructor at Texas Tech, teaches the floral design and horticulture courses.
Plowman applied his education from Texas Tech and is now known for influencing the growth of the horticulture and floral design program. His eye for detail in plants and flowers, as well as his passion to educate students, is evident in his teaching. He said he has watched the enrollment of students double throughout his career teaching at Texas Tech.

“Mr. Plowman’s class was challenging,” said Chad Brooks, a former student of Plowman. “But I learned so much from him. I would highly recommend anyone take one of his classes.”

The Number Rise

The rumors the plant and soil science department would offer floral design as a specialization credit traveled to different colleges across campus. From there enrollment numbers quadrupled. Before floral design was offered as a specialization credit there were 20 students enrolled each spring semester to 80 students enrolled in the spring semester and 80 students enrolled in the fall semester. Students began to get involved in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences and many students from different backgrounds have changed their majors to plant and soil sciences as a result of the course.

“We are using this as a recruitment tool to get students interested in coming over to agriculture,” Plowman said.

Plowman Expands His Knowledge Outside of the University

In the last year, Plowman was part of the FFA Floral Design Career Development Events in San Antonio where 300 high school students participated in the contest for the first time since its inception. In 2018 the contest will be offering $10,000 in scholarships, and they are expecting the number of students competing to double, said Plowman.

In March 2018 The Department of Plant and Soil Science hosted the FFA-CDE Floriculture contest at the Horticulture Greenhouse Plowman said. There were 80 students who attended the contest.

Students classroom knowledge and skills are used to identify and evaluate cut flowers. Houseplants and flowering plants are also evaluated through an exam. The state winning teams advance and compete at the National FFA Convention.

Roses are condsidered the focal point in an arragement.
Roses are considered the focal point in an arrangement.

The Petals Get Put to Work

To be successful in the floral design class, one must be able to interpret art, such as music and express their interpretation through flowers. During the lab portion of the course, students are required to complete an interpretation project and showcase the topic through an arrangement as a final project. The completed projects are ranked from one to ten and the top three projects are given the opportunity to compete at a higher level.

“I’ve gotten to work with flowers every week and most of the time I’ve gotten to take home what I made that day,” said Allison Reid, a junior Texas Tech agricultural communications major. “So that’s been pretty cool.”

Floral Design Services is a program offered through the plant and soil science department, giving students the opportunity to design floral arrangements for events around campus and Lubbock. Floral arrangements are designed by students involved in this program and are used as decorations at events across the Texas Tech campus. The department considers this program to be an honor for students to be a part of.

Students enrolled in the floral design course are given the opportunity to submit photos to be highlighted on the courses Facebook page, Texas Tech Floral Design 2310, for parents and peers to view their accomplishments. These arrangements are made in lab, which is a portion of the student’s grade for the floral design course.

Throughout the semester, different cultures are discussed including Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Renaissances, and Flemish. Each culture module consists of learning the history of each culture. In lab, students are required to create floral arrangements to represent the culture and history of the different countries in different time periods. This gives students an extensive background in floral design.

“As much information as the students learn in the course, they can almost walk away being certified to teach the course,” said Plowman.

Floral design is a great course for agricultural education students to take as undergraduate students, as many of them will be required to teach floral design when they begin their career as agriculture education teachers. The information given throughout this course can lend a helping hand in not only teaching floral design but also coaching students to be successful in the FFA floral design CDE.

Finding a Place in the Department

Offering floral design as an art elective has increased enrollment in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences. It has helped get students across campus to get involved enrolled in courses and organizations within the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources. With floral design offered as an art credit, students have been given the opportunity to learn about floral arrangements and the art behind it whether they grew up around agriculture or not.

“Overall I just really enjoy getting to work with fresh flowers every week,” Reid said.

The department anticipates the program to continue to grow and offer more than one course each semester. The course is available as an art credit. Through the department, students have the opportunity for their friends, peers, and family to see their work around campus and Lubbock.

Floral design is an art.

As the petals on the flowers fall, the artistic skills learned in floral design will not fade. These skills can be used to teach others floral design skills, make professional arrangements or just create flower bouquets for themselves or friends.

“Floral design is an art,” Plowman said. “Now, it is becoming more and more recognized as an art.”

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