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Floral Inspiration in Europe

25 Mar 2013

Floristry students at Northern Melbourne Institute of TAFE (NMIT) can learn first-hand about international floral design trends and techniques after a study tour to Europe by one of NMIT's teachers, Colin Straub.

Colin, who has worked in the floristry industry for over 25 years, recently returned from a six-week tour of Germany, Egypt and Holland as a recipient of an International Specialised Skills Institute (ISSI) Overseas Fellowship that he was awarded this year.

ISSI, an independent, national organisation, awards Fellowships to just twenty people in specialist areas around Australia to enhance their skills that cannot be gained in this country.

The Fellowships are sponsored by the Australian Government Department of Education, Science and Training, the Victorian Government Office of Training and Tertiary Education and the Pratt Foundation.

Colin said that while France was the hub of the fashion industry for its unique and original designs, Germany and Holland were the countries in the forefront in floristry.

Colin first attended a one-to-one workshop with internationally renown wedding flower specialist, Wally Klett, in her studio in a 13th century village, near Stuttgart, in Germany.

Wally has written about 10 books on wedding flower design and Colin enjoyed an intensive, five days working alongside her exploring the latest bridal bouquet techniques and design construction.

'It was a fantastic opportunity to learn a whole range of different techniques that are based on totally new concepts not seen in Australia,' Colin said. 'I worked with several European flowers that are not traditional bridal flowers and acquired new skills and ideas to impart to NMIT students at home.'

He acknowledged the designs would be adapted to suit the Australian lifestyle and would be different from those in Germany.

'I will be introducing students to concepts that are completely new in Australia as German culture tends to be more formal and their floral designs tend to be more ornate, probably due to climatic conditions in northern Europe.'

Australian designs are traditionally more informal to suit our milder climate and our life outdoors, he added.

Colin then went on to participate in a Master Class with German designer, Gregor Lersch, one of the world's most famous florists. The class was located in another 13 th century village, near Bonn. He was one of 30 participants from 17 different countries involved in hands-on experience over five days.

'We explored new ideas in hand-tied bouquets and free-standing bouquets learning about the methodology of design and the emotional expression of design,' Colin said.

'Gregor focused on how a designer develops a design concept in his head which was underpinned by a cultural and emotional expression. The class had a very supportive environment and it was interesting to see how his techniques were interpreted by all the participants.'

Colin said NMIT floristry students were always made aware of the impact of culture on design and he would be able to pass on Gregor's techniques to the students.

'I gained a deeper understanding of how culture impacts on design and creativity to help students develop their own unique styles.'

He added the workshop also included working with new flower materials only used in Europe.

The world's biggest flower market, Aalsmeer near Amsterdam in Holland, was Colin's next visit where a contact with a flower exporter gave him an insight into the international industry he would otherwise not have enjoyed.

'I went onto the floor to see how the flowers are moved and arranged and could examine their quality first-hand. Aalsmeer has a massive volume of flowers with about 11,000 trolleys of flowers with each trolley holding about 200 bunches of different flowers. It's absolutely stunning and on the day I was there they sold three million roses.

'There were so many new varieties and hybrids I saw that are not traditionally used in Australia.

'The market is just mind-blowing; with its sheer volume of flowers and the outstanding quality and variety.'

With local growers he met at the market, Colin also visited their glass houses outside the market where he saw 50,000 hydrangea plants grown hydroponically.

'It was amazing to see these properties - another growing roses, and to understand the growing processes they use.'

Colin said he had returned from the study tour with a whole range of new ideas and skills and felt inspired that he could pass these on to his students.

'It was a very exciting time to meet people with a common interest and to see the very latest in European floral design. The industry in Australia is evolving all the time and we can adapt European influences to suit our needs and create our very own unique style.'

NMIT offers Certificate II, III and IV in Floristry which focus on techniques and skills, product knowledge and business management.

Course Inquiries: (03) 9269-8827

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Media enquiries should be directed to the NMIT Communications Officer, James Gardener, on (03) 92691579, 0413 483 182 or

NMIT (Northern Melbourne Institute of TAFE) - Situated on seven campuses and six training centres throughout Melbourne's north, NMIT delivers vocational training, higher education and lifelong learning capabilities for a global workforce. NMIT forges partnerships with community, industry and government to produce practical, solution orientated graduates capable of making meaningful contributions to their chosen field of endeavour.