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Floral designer Lorrie Abbott enjoys nothing more than adding a little cheer to living spaces and workplaces.

Better yet, she loves guiding others through the creative process of using flowers, greenery and decorative items to make seasonal floral arrangements.

Abbott, 71, has been leading floral design classes for more than 20 years, mostly through the Rohnert Park Community Services Department.

“Most (students) have no experience, but by the end of class they are totally amazed they’ve put something so beautiful together,” she said.

Abbott believes floral designs — from sweet and diminutive to exotic and over-the-top — can lift spirits and add beauty anywhere. Even a few cut flowers carefully placed in a vase can do the trick.

Her classes give participants the foundation to make their own arrangements. She also teaches workshops in wedding design, sharing tips for making corsages, boutonnières, table decorations and bouquets.

“This is my heart’s work,” Abbott said. “If I could have done this throughout my life, I would have.”

She came into floral design by chance. A longtime teacher’s aide and school administrative secretary who retired in 2011, she was at work when a colleague started showing up with gorgeous floral arrangements each week.

The co-worker was taking floristry classes at Santa Rosa Junior College and Abbott decided to sign up, too.

“I wanted to do this. It just looked like fun,” Abbott said.

Immediately, she was hooked. She took nearly every class offered, eventually earning a certificate in floral design.

The creative outlet also helped Abbott work through her divorce after almost 24 years of marriage.

“I was trying to find myself again,” she said. “I was my kids’ mother and my husband’s wife.”

Abbott had been doing clerical work for the city of Santa Rosa when she first tested her floral design skills. She volunteered to make table arrangements for an awards banquet, much to the appreciation of city officials.

In 2000, she put her talents to work for the city’s Rose Parade, overseeing the floral work for a float carrying the Santa Rosa City Council.

She rallied 10 floral design friends from SRJC and together they incorporated “hundreds and hundreds” of roses into the float. Their effort didn’t go unnoticed — it took the trophy for best use of roses.

“My heart was just bursting,” Abbott said of the experience.

She approaches each floral job with equal enthusiasm. She especially loves doing floral design for weddings, 30 to date.

Her first wedding was for her son, Aaron De La Montanya, in 1998. Several years later, she took on the floral design responsibilities when daughter Carrie De La Montanya got married.

She didn’t have the slightest hesitation handling her children’s weddings; she was excited to create a beautiful showcase for them and their spouses.

“It was one of my gifts to them,” she said.

A self-described “perfectionist” when it comes to floral design, Abbott strives to make her clients happy. All her wedding work is through word of mouth, something the designer finds flattering.

She enjoys having couples include something special or sentimental into their floral designs. One bride asked to have her grandmother’s jeweled broach in her bouquet, another a keepsake necklace.

One bridal party wanted to help make table arrangements. The bride and her attendants visited Abbott’s home in Rohnert Park, where she does all her arranging, and got busy.

“It was like a class,” Abbott said. “They were so excited they got to partake in it.”

She loves sharing her talents with others, giving them tools they can use for other floral projects at home.

Her classes include demonstrations and step-by-step instructions, with Abbott encouraging students to follow her patterns while putting personal touches into their work.

Although she prefers an abundance of flowers, some students are more reserved, using fewer blooms but still achieving attractive results.

Abbott shares tried-and-true design patterns — “a square within a square within a square, getting smaller as you go up” — but knows each arrangement will be unique to the designer.

She may have a dozen students using the same materials, but no two designs will be identical.

“I tell people, ‘You are the designer. You pick how you want to do it. I give you the pattern, but it’s up to you,’ ” she said.

Abbott’s holiday-themed classes are especially popular. This year her classes in Rohnert Park include Valentine’s Day, Easter, Mother’s Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas themes.

The arrangements typically feature greenery, basic flowers like carnations, mini carnations and mums, plus specialty flowers and seasonal decorations ranging from puffed hearts and Styrofoam Easter eggs to plastic spiders and Christmas baubles.

The arrangements all include bows, but Abbott makes them ahead of class from the vast collection of ribbon she keeps at home.

“Every arrangement has some kind of bow, but they hate to make the bows,” she said. She now teaches classes just in bow design — fun for those willing to give it a try.

Another design class highlights a big bow — but not a single bloom. Students use an ice pick, toothpicks and some 100 wine corks to assemble onto a straw wreath frame, changing bows seasonally. She came up with her Wine Country tribute as another way to work creatively and reuse wine corks.

Among the joys she’s discovered, Abbott takes great satisfaction as her floral students marvel at their own abilities.

“They’re taking pictures of it and sending to friends and putting it on Facebook,” she said. “This makes me feel so good to do this. I guess I need that adoration in doing this.”

Lorrie Abbott will teach “Valentine’s Day Arrangement” from 6-7:30 p.m. Thursday at the Rohnert Park Community Center, 5401 Snyder Lane. The cost is $20, plus a $15 materials fee. For more information, or to register, call 707-588-3456 or visit rpcommunityservices.org.

Contact Towns Correspondent Dianne Reber Hart at sonomatowns@gmail.com.

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