By MATT CRANE
Lynette McDougald has an ear for the language of flowers.
The University Florist manager and Floral Design instructor is scheduled to bring her unique brand of passion and design to the 2012 Southern Garden Symposium Oct. 12-13 in St. Francisville, La.
McDougald said she is excited about being asked to present at the symposium where she will demonstrate her design skills in the Afton Villa Gardens.
"My presentation is called is 'Everything a Floral Designer Should Know,'" she said. "The gardeners who come to these symposiums are very knowledgable."
McDougald said her personal approach to design comes from gathering materials commonly found in the Mississippi landscape.
"Gathering anything that's collectible that we have around us is my strength because that's what I grew up doing," she said. "It's funny because what is hot on the California market is stuff we're growing on the side of the road here. We look at these things as being weeds and we devalue them, but on the cut-flower market, it's pretty rich."
McDougald said her affinity for floral design began as a child watching her grandmother's garden and tending to her uncle's nursery, and said her love and passion for the craft continues to blossom today.
"I am fascinated by form … and I love to see plant materials and arrangements presented in the way that they grow," she said. "I want it to appear as natural as it can be, so I start arranging and just let it happen."
McDougald said she described her process as an organic one, making sure each flower is presented in the best light.
"I'll watch and make the placements based on what the flower says," she said. "Everyone wants their best face forward, and so does that flower."
McDougald, who was named the Mississippi Floral Designer of the Year in 2000, said she is drawn to color and the renewed possibilities each season brings to her designs.
"I'm looking forward to fall," she said. "With this change of season we'll get into some rich, earthy tones."
McDougald said the art of floral design requires an ability to emotionally master not only the look and feel of an arrangement, but in dealing with the client as well.
"You're speaking to the different emotions people have about why they're giving someone flowers because it could be the happiest or saddest time of their lives," she said. "You have to be pretty intuitive and know how to sympathize and empathize when possible."
McDougald said while she is looking forward to her symposium presentation, she thrives on being involved in the process of her floral design students.
"It's exciting to see students getting into it, and you can teach someone anything but sometimes you see that native talent that's coming from somewhere else … because there's a passion there," she said. "Our program teaches both the art and business side because you have to be a good business person and know how to manage your money. We try to look at the whole picture."
Above all, McDougald said she is happy to still be working in the field where her passion continues to grow, and the opportunities she is given to make a mark in people's lives.
"Flowers do things that nothing else can because they speak their own language," she said. "I'm just glad to be able to be a part of people's lives and provide them different things."