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Douglas Ek 

Director and Instructor, Rocky Mountain School of Floral Art

click to enlarge MEGGEN BURGHARDT
  • Meggen Burghardt

Doug Ek has never met a flower he didn't like. He ardently defends the much maligned carnation, pointing out that Colorado is famous for growing carnations, and that arranged properly, the "funeral" flower is spectacular, and emits a range of scents from clove to mint, "almost to rose." Since childhood, Ek has been swept away by the possibilities of flowers to enhance human life, whether in the garden, in the form of a wreath or a formal flower arrangement. After 30 years of arranging flowers professionally, Ek returned to Colorado Springs recently to open a professional school, the Rocky Mountain School of Floral Art, principally geared toward people looking to make a career move, but available to lay flower-lovers as well. Ek's formal arrangements can be seen throughout Primitivo Wine Bar on South Tejon Street, downtown.

When did you know that flowers would be your life? The earliest memory of my obsession is from childhood. My family lived in Cascade, up on the mountain, with flowers all down the hillside. One day I heard some severe weather was heading in and I went out and sheared the garden to save the flowers. That was in 4th grade; in 7th grade, I had my first floral experience selling things I'd made. I hand-tied wreaths and made centerpieces and sold them at the lovely old grocery store in Green Mountain Falls. (It's no longer there.)

What kind of formal training did you obtain? In high school, I received a scholarship to study at a floral school in Denver that no longer exists. It was a wonderful experience. There actually is a right way to arrange flowers, and in school, you learn the basic structural and mechanical skills essential to doing that; you build a foundation from which to grow.

What's the best thing about being a florist? The opportunity to deal with people in their most extreme emotional states, whether it be at a wedding, a funeral, a graduation, an anniversary. Florists play an important role in helping out, dealing with people in a one-to-one way.

What type of students attend your classes? A broad spectrum of people. In the last class, there were five students, four who wanted to learn to work in the industry, and one who wanted basic knowledge of design and arrangement for her own personal use.

What's your favorite flower? Your least favorite? I really love them all. In the industry, there are those we love and those we absolutely hate, in general, but it's hard for me to dislike a flower -- any flower.

What makes flowers such powerful tools of communication? I think of a flower as color, fragrance, texture and emotion. A flower isn't just a flower. They hold within themselves such an expanse of drama and celebration, you just have to know how to work with them to make that come out.

Starting July 11, the Rocky Mountain School of Floral Art will offer a 24-hour class over six days, "The Art of the Bouquet," directed at students who want to develop skills enabling them to arrange flowers at home and learn the proper care and handling of flowers. Call 471-9719 or e-mail rmsfloralart@mail.com for information on this class or the professional program.

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