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.