By Ingrid Howard
When Beth White was growing up working at her family’s flower shop in Kentucky, she said she had no intention of making a lifelong career out of it. She just did what she had to do to “get the car” from her parents.
But when her husband left the military in 1975, she rethought that position.
“I said, ‘Honey, whatever you want to do, I’ll follow you anywhere,’” she said. “He said, ‘Let’s go home and buy the flower shop.’”
He was charmed by the small town, White said. So off they went. “And the rest is history,” she said.
White was a professional florist for the next 40 years, until she moved to Alabama to retire in 2015.
But instead of “eating bonbons and playing bridge” in her retirement, White discovered volunteer opportunities at Aldridge Gardens.
“I became a volunteer here and realized why it is such a special, magical place,” she said. Now, she does two to four classes a year that focus on floral decorating.
“Beth has a knack of making common-sense magic,” said Debbie McDonald, education director at Aldridge Gardens. “You know, it’s like, ‘Why didn’t I think of that?’ And she tells you, and it’s so obvious. And everything she touches turns out beautifully.”
White said she wants her classes to pique people’s interest and bring them out to the gardens. For example, one class she would like to do would teach people how to take advantage of the winter landscape.
“People get depressed,” she said. “They don’t see the beauty in that bare branch that’s so gorgeously sculpted and that one leaf that’s hanging off of it.”
Last year, White said, she taught people how to create a dynamic door with professional results. For example, she said sticking a doughnut-shaped wreath on a rectangle door with rectangle window panes might not look nice.
“Instead of doing a doughnut, we’re going to take branches and make a swag, which is rectangular shaped, and put that on there,” she said. “And it looks dramatic … and it repeats the form.”
In this year’s winter class, White will discuss reducing holiday anxiety.
“I’ve got some magic that I’m going to share that helps you do that,” she said. “Most people make decorating too hard, so we’re going to take a common-sense approach to how you understand what makes decorating look special.
“If you start cooking on Thanksgiving Day, and you’ve never cooked before, you’re pretty much doomed to fail. Most people have some experience, and many people have a lot of experience. But they may not have the information they need to make the right decisions.”
In her classes, she also teaches seasonal decorating, so the decorations can last past Dec. 25.
“We’ll do some winter decorating, and then we’ll do holiday trim on it,” she said. “And then you put Santa Claus away, and the rest is still there.”
Spots are limited to White’s classes, and her Nov. 30 class is sold out. Listings for future events at Aldridge Gardens can be found at aldridgegardens.com/education/events.
“Life is too short not to enjoy it,” she said. “In my flower shop, that was our mission. There is beauty which will fill your soul from the very simplest touch to really big things. But it’s not always about big things, it’s about enjoying that moment and appreciating the beauty in whatever: that blossom, that leaf, that stem.”