When it was time to choose this year’s Designer of Distinction, the Garden Club didn’t have to go too far to find a world-class talent. Laura Haley happened to relocate to Ponte Vedra Beach five years ago, and brought her years of experience creating eye-popping flower arrangements with her.

Haley is a 2019 National Garden Club of America Medalist for outstanding achievement in the field of floral design education. She has made floral design education her passion, and countless club members across the country have benefitted from her work.

In preparation for her Designer of Distinction presentation on January 16, we asked Haley a few questions about her work.

Tell us about your background.

I was born in Connecticut and grew up in Milford, as did my husband. We actually went to the same nursery school. I got my degree in education at Lesley University in Cambridge, Massachusettes. Although I had intended on becoming a teacher, while in college I wrote and published a student handbook. This project piqued my interest in publishing. Rather than head straight to a teaching position, I went to the University of Denver Publishing Institute, and that lead me to my professional career in publishing and printing in New York City.

Ultimately, I ended up working with a printer and through various twists and turns, I was awarded the contract to print Trivial Pursuit as it was about to be published in the United States. As a young mother, I managed commuting, parenting, and a job that required a good bit of travel. After my second child was born, I decided to abandon ship and stay home. Within a year or two, I had joined a the Little Garden Club of Rye in Westchester County, New York. I was immediately interested in horticulture and flower arranging.

How did you first become interested in floral design?

As a garden club member, I was always intrigued and curious about the process of design. I was an avid grower, and in fact won my first flower show awards in horticulture. Floral design took longer to achieve success and confidence. I studied books, asked questions, bought grocery store flowers weekly, and made arrangements for my home in New York. I also took classes and entered a few zone shows on behalf of my garden club. My entries were usually second or third, never first.

When did you first taste success as a floral designer?

Once the children were old enough to get to school without my help, I started to enter flower shows in earnest. My first blue in floral design was in a cascade design class. As I look back, I think I won the blue because it was the only true cascade design. All designers learn about conformance to the schedule; we are taught to abide by the rules and understand the various design styles.

My years of watching and studying paid off. I never thought the design would win. In fact, I sent my husband on to the show floor so he could soften the news. I still remember his number one sign and big smile as he came out of the building. By 2006, I had entered the Garden Club of America (GCA) judging program and became an approved judge four years later.

How did you become aware of the Garden Club of Jacksonville?

While living up north, I had the opportunity to serve as the GCA Flower Show Committee (FSC) chair. Through other previous committee positions, I had met members of the Late Bloomers Garden Club. Susan Doherty and I served on the FSC together, and Dottie Nutant was also a member of the club in Rye. Late Bloomers was having its first GCA Flower Show while I was the FSC chair.

The show was held at the Garden Club of Jacksonville. As FSC chair, I heard all about it, approved the schedule, and answered questions after the show. Five years ago, we decided to move to northern Florida for golf, beach, and warm weather. I joined Late Bloomers and have participated in several #GardenClubJax activities.

Why do you enjoy teaching and mentoring others?

My degree was in education, and I often joke it took me until age 50 to find my subject. I’m a teacher at heart. It is a treat to share just a little something about design and watch a student take it and run with it. Encouraging and educating others about the process brings me joy and fulfillment.

What’s your go-to tip or trick for floral design?

Foliage! Plant your garden with color, texture, and pattern, and an interesting arrangement is just a few snips away.

Don’t miss Haley demonstrate her signature arrangements while you enjoy a delcious lunch. Several of her creations will be auctioned at the event. Purchase your ticket today.