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Our Talent Continues To Bloom

By Kristin Avery | February 2, 2021

 

For many of the people that make-up our organization, their passions include not only utility software, but also branch out to other areas.

 

 

Learning & Development Instructional Designer Josh Holston has a passion for creating the best learning tools in the industry, and he’s also passionate about growing flowers and placing them in beautiful arrangements. This love stemmed from generations of his family curating the soil for everything from vegetables to pine trees. Holston recalls,” Growing up, my grandmother on my mom’s side was a florist. Whenever there was a big event, my mom would help her, so I’d tag along. Of course, I wanted in on the action, so I’d make little mini arrangements from the flowers that fell on the floor. As I grew older, I would help my grandmother decorate her house for fall and Christmas. By this time, she was no longer in the business, but she still had all the supplies, so it was always fun to experiment and get her feedback. She was very opinionated and would let you know if it didn’t look right and how to fix it. I learned so much from her.”

 

Holston continues, “During these years with my grandmother, I discovered I loved to grow and propagate plants. I used the money from one of my summer jobs to buy an intermittent mist system. If you love plants and have the space, it’s a game-changer. You can root almost anything effortlessly with one of those systems.”

 

Growing flowers certainly comes with its fair share of challenges. They are partial to seasons, and require various levels of sunlight and water. One challenge Holston didn’t expect to affect his hobby of growing flowers and sharing beautiful arrangements with others was the global COVID-19 pandemic. Holston says, “Every June, our church holds an event called Campmeeting. I had ordered a lot specialty seeds and planted them for such an occasion. Unfortunately, when COVID hit, our church decided to cancel the event. So there I was with hundreds of flowering plants in my backyard and no event for them. I made flower arrangements for myself, my family, and even brought several to the church. It was a way to spread a little cheer during a trying time.”

 

 

Holston adds, “I would also take pictures of the arrangements and share with friends and family that I would usually get to see in-person during the church event. The timing actually turned out well, because even though I had grown what I felt was a ridiculous number of flowers (and tomato and pepper plants, but that’s a story for another day), I didn’t have nearly enough to make 20 large table arrangements. So it basically gave me a trial run.”

 

It’s clear that not even a pandemic can dampen Holston’s enthusiasm for cultivating flowers. Recently, he purchased another acre of land to provide more space to help this interest flourish. Holston says, “I live on family land that I purchased from my grandmother on my dad’s side. It used to be a working farm in the 70s and early 80s until it was planted in pine trees. Since then, the rest of my grandmother’s land has been cut and replanted with longleaf pines. The new acre encompasses my old cutting garden and some landscaping area, as well as giving me the room to expand my cutting garden. I’m hoping to be able to sell wholesale to local florists since there are very few options for local flowers in this area.”

 

Holston resumes, “I also have the space to start a mini nursery to propagate plants to sell. These hobbies should help me prop up my plant spending habits. There’s really a certain poetry about it, because it’s land my grandfather and father farmed and after being planted in pines for 30 years, I’ll be farming it again. Although it will be with a much different crop.”

 

In addition to expanding the land where his flowers can thrive, he’ll be expanding his floral knowledge by taking an intensive online workshop with Floret,. Holston remarks, “I’m super excited about the online workshop that Floret offers. Floret is the company that Erin and Chris Benzakein started, so I’m getting to learn from my flower farming/florist icon! What is so unique about this particular course is that it covers a myriad of topics related to owning and operating a flower farm and/or becoming a florist. You start with finding your strengths and determining what you want to do with your flowers, then you go through the planning process, how to start seeds, how to make bouquets for markets/events, and even how to market your flowers. Most workshops of this type tend to focus on just one aspect, such as growing or arranging, but this touches on all of it. Succession planting and planning is something I’m not good at, so I’m excited to learn more about it from the best.”

 

 

With almost a lifetime of growing flowers and carefully considering each one for unique arrangements, one must be curious if Holston has any floral favorites or any that he’s partial to using in his array of arrangements. Holston says, “Ok, I am a total sucker for fragrant garden roses. I have over 200 rose bushes in pots and in my yard. I love the quartered ones best, such as Souvenir de la Malmaison, an old French rose from the 1840s. A single flower from that rose can smell up an entire room if the air is still. I love some of the newer Kordes roses, such as Summer Romance. They are insanely vigorous and disease resistant, even here in south Mississippi. And of course, you can’t talk about quartered roses without mentioning the David Austin varieties. I think I have about 10 varieties of those. At the moment, I think Wollerton Old Hall is my favorite of those, because it has strong stems with large fragrant flowers in a creamy apricot color that goes with nearly anything. My grandmother used a lot of roses in her arrangements, though they were imported roses. She would have absolutely loved the ones I grow now.”

 

Holston concludes, “I’ll add Zinnias to the list of flowers I love.” They are ridiculously easy to grow and work great as filler flowers and focal flowers depending on the variety. The Queen Lime series is always a sure bet, as well as the old standard Envy that you can find in the seed section at even big box stores like Lowe’s and Home Depot. Cosmos are also super easy to grow and have this delicate, airy quality that you can’t find from imported blooms. I tuck them into arrangements last, and they add so much drama, because of the way they nod with the least little movement.”