Madison business provides winter pots workshops for area residents

OWNER BRITTANY WALDMAN works on a winter container on Saturday at The Floral Shop. She and two others were available to provide guidance to those who attended the morning workshop.

The last of the Indian summer days lay across the region on Saturday when The Floral Shop offered the first of three workshops to help DIY-ers assemble their winter containers for the holidays. As a result, the class size was small, so Brynn Kafka was able to get one-to-one attention as she worked on her first winter container.

"I wanted to make a winter container and a local business was going to do it," she said, explaining her decision to attend.

As she worked, Donna Pierce provided guidance, both demonstrating techniques and giving verbal instruction. In another part of the greenhouse, owner Brittany Waldman was working on her own winter container. She wasn't surprised at the small attendance and expected more interest once temperatures dropped after the weekend.

"People can use the greenhouse throughout the week," she said. "They are welcome to purchase the stuff to make the pots anytime."

However, classes with willing teachers on hand to provide guidance will only be offered on upcoming Saturdays -- Nov. 14 and 21. Dave Heim estimated he's been helping with winter container workshops for at least 15 years.

"You learn as you go," he said. "The first year, you might feel inexperienced. The more you do it, the easier it gets.

``There's some people who think they'll never be able to do it and before long, they're doing it by themselves," he continued.

The Floral Shop, located on the SD-34 bypass, has changed its focus since Waldman took over the business in August 2019. She no longer has the greenhouse or does landscaping. She also offers more gift items.

"We have a lot of South Dakota-made products," she said.

In addition, the store has been organized so that individuals looking for a gift for a specific occasion -- for a memorial, for example, or for a new baby -- can easily find what they are looking for. In addition, she's always looking for new items to carry.

"She's also ready to find unique things for people -- or create them," Heim added. "That's probably her strength. She does really unique arrangements that you don't find everywhere."

In helping with the winter container workshops, Heim has a knack for helping people think about what they want to create. He said he starts by asking folks to think about where they want their container to go.

"Is it going by your front door or on a patio? That decides how big you're going to go," he said.

It will also, to some extent, determine what to put into the pot. Southern exposures need a different touch than elsewhere.

"That South Dakota sun is great to have, but is not great for green arrangements," Heim explained.

Once that has been clarified, folks are encouraged to walk around the greenhouse where an assortment of items has been laid out on shelves. Berries and bells, pine cones and birch sticks, large ornaments and dried seed pods are some of the embellishments available.

"Then we pick out what you like. You're not committed to it," Heim said.

By this time, creative ideas have begun to stir and the physical labor can begin.

"We fill the container with soil -- soil soil, not potting soil," Waldman said.

Newspaper can also be put into the bottom of the container. This has two benefits, according to Heim. First, it makes the container lighter to carry after being assembled. Second, after the container is in place and has been watered, the newspaper holds the water which freezes and offers additional stability.

"Then we find the greenery to build the structure of the pot, and then we add the fun, pretty stuff," Waldman said.

In less than an hour, Heim assembled two winter containers. The first had as its focal point three birch sticks. Around this he placed greenery, large pine cones and clusters of red berries. It was striking in its bold and elegant simplicity.

The second also started with a birch stick, but a small tree was placed alongside that. In addition to greenery, berries and small pine cones, he added silver bells. While the two shared many similar elements, this one had an exuberant flamboyance.

For Waldman, that's what makes this time of year fun for her -- seeing the way people's creativity takes flight.

"It's amazing how many different pots go out of here," she said.

The pots do need to be watered until it freezes, but once it freezes, they need no further care.

"As soon as it freezes, they just get to enjoy it," Waldman said.

Those who attend the workshops pay for the items they select for their containers -- the greenery, birch sticks and other embellishments -- but do not pay anything for the workspace or the assistance provided. If individuals have purchased items in the past, they may bring these back and reuse them in order to reduce their cost.

Waldman asks that individuals call to reserve a space in one of the Saturday workshops or to arrange a time to work in the greenhouse. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, she is limiting the number of individuals in the greenhouse at any one time.