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From flowers to art

Katherine Glazier takes floral arrangements to the next level in Gamble Garden class

A love of gardening and transforming flowers into art runs back five generations in Katherine Glazier's family.

"It is something I have to do," she said. Glazier grew up gardening with her father, who encouraged her to grow anything that caught her interest.

"It was (my father's) great-grandfather who had two floral shops in Boston, where I'm from. I wonder if it's in my gene pool? ... It's something I've always loved."

This fall season, Glazier celebrates the colorful foliage and flower offerings of the Bay Area by teaching a floral design class at Gamble Garden. Called "Fall Floral Inspirations -- A Great Place to Start," the class takes place on Friday, Nov. 8.

Although Glazier developed her life-long love of gardening and flowers while growing up in Boston, it was California that amazed Glazier with the diversity of plants that thrive in the local climate.

"We are so lucky with this climate," she said.

When her children were growing up, she and her family often explored Gamble Garden, which was walking distance from their home, and her children participated in its intergenerational programs.

Before joining Gamble Garden as a flower arranger and instructor about a year ago, Glazier first worked as a docent at nearby Filoli starting in the late 1990s.

"Filoli had (flower) arrangements in every room of the house," she said. Soon, she enrolled in Londoner Anne Patrick's floral-design class, graduating from her program in 2002 and joining Filoli's floral-design committee. Glazier still teaches floral design at Filoli and currently operates a freelance floral design business, Katherine J. Glazier Design.

Glazier holds a degree from Wellesley College in Wellesley, Mass., that influences her floral-design instruction.

"I was an art history major. I bring principles from art history and art to designing and floral arranging," she said. "I love teaching people about it and sharing it."

In her upcoming class, Glazier will demonstrate several floral arrangements, and each participant will then create an arrangement to bring home.

"Fall is my favorite season for arranging," she said. "There are so many materials." Glazier pointed out the diversity in texture and color of flowers and foliage available in the fall. Her favorite materials to use in both her own arrangements and to bring into her classrooms are "interesting greenery and branches; bittersweet, which is a flowering vine; the wonderful fall-colored roses coming out soon; fall grasses with their seed heads; gourds and pumpkins."

"We have an amazing amount of material," Glazier said of flowers used for teaching floral arranging in the Bay Area. "We are so lucky with this climate. So much can be grown and brought to (a flower) market, even at farmers markets and even the grocery store."

Because of the accessibility of materials, Glazier says that the skills she will teach in her class can be easily transferred to the design of flower arrangements for the upcoming holiday season. Glazier also said that living in Palo Alto means that beautiful and useful materials "can be grown in your own yard, in a container" and used for floral arranging.

Glazier encourages everyone to participate in gardening and to explore floral arranging.

"If you're thinking about floral design, come to beginner classes, and you will leave happy with what you can do," she said. "There are tricks to flower arranging, and once you get a hold of them, it is a wonderful field that you can bring home and share with friends."

For her upcoming class at Gamble Gardens, Glazier estimates that 75 percent of the materials will be locally grown. Her preference is for using materials grown without the use of pesticides and when possible she uses non-hybridized material. Though hybridized plants last longer in floral arrangements, she said, they are not as fragrant.

Glazier said floral arranging not only brings beauty inside the home, but also brings balance by counteracting the stress that can accompany modern life.

"Turning off all technology and interruptions, you are able to see the product of your handiwork and see the fruits of your labor," Glazier said. "It is therapeutic to be able to take time away, arrange flowers, to be in the garden."

What: Fall Floral Inspirations -- A Great Place to Start

When: Friday, Nov. 8, 9 a.m. to noon

Where: Gamble Garden Carriage House, 1431 Waverley St., Palo Alto

Cost: $65 nonmembers; $55 members (includes supplies)

Info: Gamble Garden or 650-329-1356

Editorial intern Kimberlee D'Ardenne can be emailed at

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