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Flower Arranging Class Brings Beauty, Style, & Technique To Penn State

At a school as large as Penn State, you’re destined to find a fun class on practically any subject you could imagine. Between Food Politics, the university’s first-ever COVID-19 class, Introduction to Hemp Production, and Anthropology of Alcohol, Penn State really has it all.

Meet HORT 352: Flower Arranging — a course designed to teach students the art and science of flower design and is no exception to the fun. The two-credit class is taught by Professor Kathy Shumac twice a week for three hours.

Through this course, students learn the basic styles of arrangements, commonly used florist tools, and techniques for caring for all types of flowers.

Originally hailing from Erie, Pa., Shumac initially became interested in horticulture by spending time in her family garden.

“I come from a very large family, six sisters and seven brothers, and being one of the youngest, I learned to be fairly self-sufficient,” Shumac said. “We never had a lot of money, so we would keep ourselves busy. I spent a lot of time in the garden. It was quiet. I didn’t have too many older siblings telling me what to do, and I was free to do whatever I pleased.”

When it came time to choose a major for college, it was obvious that Shumac wanted to keep learning as much as she could about plants and flowers. She attended Penn State Behrend, only a short trip away from her childhood home, and transferred to University Park after two years.

As an undergraduate, Shumac worked part-time at the University greenhouses. Shortly after graduation, she took a job as a horticulture professional with All-America Selections. When a full-time position opened at Penn State, Shumac jumped at the opportunity to move back to State College and become a manager in the horticulture department.

“At that time I was working full time in the greenhouses. One of my duties was to assist the professors in various tasks,” Shumac said. “I soon started helping out with the flower arranging class and moved up the ranks to instructor when the original professor retired.”

After teaching flower arranging for many years and even taking the class herself in the 80s, Shumac decided she wanted to keep the atmosphere casual and friendly while still maintaining the structure of a typical course at Penn State.

When students first arrive in her classroom, Shumac launches straight into a lecture for the first half of class. The lectures cover a wide range of topics including basic design elements and principles, color use, and the history of floral design. After a lecture, students create their own flower arrangements based on the styles they learned about.

Courtesy of Kathy Shumac

“Although students taking this course aren’t expected to become florists, it gives them some of the basic skills needed to make interesting and long-lived arrangements,” Shumac said. “They can use this class as a stepping-off point to get more fully involved in flower design or use the skills they attain for everyday life.”

There is a common misconception that professional flower arranging is easy. In reality, there are many techniques and lots of hard work that go into creating beautiful and long-lasting arrangements. Shumac spends much of her time emphasizing to students that “less is more.” She says some of the most beautiful floral arrangements are made out of only a few flowers.

“There is a lot to think about and consider when creating a floral design, often much more than most people understand,” Shumac said. “Flower arranging is more than just putting beautiful flowers in a vase. A properly arranged display will give meaning and convey emotion.”

Courtesy of Kathy Shumac

Shumac encourages her students from HORT 352 to enroll in an independent study. Students involved in this class create larger flower arrangements for all types of Penn State associations including the Nittany Lion Inn, the Penn Stater Hotel and Conference Center, Hintz Family Alumni Center, and many other buildings on campus.

“I hope students gain an appreciation for flower arrangements, how they are used, and how they are valued in society,” Shumac said. “Flower arrangements can be the one thing that is remembered at an important event. A few dollars of flowers can become a cherished memory that lasts forever.”

You can stay up to date on the latest HORT 352 designs on the Penn State Advanced Floral Design Facebook page.

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About the Author

Ava Brendgord

Ava is a sophomore writer from Houston, TX majoring in broadcast journalism. She loves watching the news, drinking absurd amounts of coffee, and saying "y'all" whenever possible. Contact her at @avabrendgord on Instagram or email her at [email protected]

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