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Florist Spotlight: Christy Hulsey

13 October 2022

Florist spotlight is a segment on Rose Stories dedicated to highlighting the work of floral designers and artists who outdo themselves every day by creating works of art with Rosaprima roses.

This month’s florist spotlight presents the lovely and talented award winning floral designer: Christy Hulsey.

Tell us about your passion for floral design. How has it helped you through difficult times?

My story with floral design is a bit different than the rest.

Growing up my passion was journalism. And yes, there were florists in my family but there wasn’t a flower shop or anything of the sort and I was following my endeavor as a journalist. I didn’t expect to become a florist.

But then, years later, there was this beautiful, old flower shop in my husband’s family that needed someone to carry the passion and we decided to buy it with my husband. I was taken away…

I knew I wanted to continue the legacy but I didn’t have any experience with floral design. I began writing about it. I was writing about the journey while learning the craft. I didn’t work with flowers for almost two years!

You see at that time I had to find it within me to save the shop because I didn’t have training. I had to find it deep. And I truly believed that even though we were in a small town, we could do high end and we could do luxurious designs. That is when we bought beautiful flowers, high-end ribbons and began putting together gorgeous and lavish designs. People kept telling me it wouldn’t work but I was determined to save the shop and remain true to this vision…

And then it started to happen.

We were discovered pretty early on. Pottery Barn found us and then we were called for the Mayesh Design Star Tour where we got to travel and give workshops.

What saved our shop was using things that we really love. Using the most luxurious and beautiful flowers we could find. Colonial House of Flowers, est. 1968 was coming to life again. And let me tell you, Rosaprima was a big part of resuscitating this shop. Rosaprima roses were so elegant and luxurious *gasp* I was completely taken away by them… I showed them off whenever I could and it got to a point where everyone kept asking me if I worked for Rosaprima. (Laughs)

After Mayesh, we continued working with photographers and gave workshops. We also travelled! I remember the feeling of visiting Ecuador after having gone to China. I have such fond memories of Ecuador… I was there for a whole week and it was incredible. It was interesting to see (as a person and a flower nerd) how the world is different and the flowers from different countries and continents are also so very different. Roses in Ecuador are amazing and I was blown away by the beautiful place where Rosaprima is located, surrounded by mountains, and the perfect climate for rose growing. It’s a place where nature gives back. Going there was important because I saw how Rosaprima affected the people who live there, the food, the doctors, everything. They care. They care about the people and it’s generally sustainable. It’s just hard to believe how they are grown. Knowing that for me makes me use them more abundantly. Rosaprima roses are the embodiment of quality: naturally tall and aromatic.

I also love that, like Colonial House of Flowers, Rosaprima is family owned and operated. I met Ross and his sisters Cindy and Natasha. And, I spoke with them and I know their passions. I am especially fond of Cindy, Ross’s sister… She shows a real commitment to sustainability and I know it’s not easy.

Tell us a bit about Colonial House of Flowers today.

These days, I focus on something I believe is very important: helping people bring more beauty into their lives.

I think it is important right now for everyone, everywhere, to see, feel, touch, hear, and smell more beauty. We need things from the outside – inside during hard times. We need beauty. We need flowers and plants more than ever, and I want to help people do that.

Today, we no longer have the brick and mortar, but we have our CHOF at Home online shop where I ship things that make it easy to create beauty for all skill levels and budgets. Aside from the shop, I also arrange small COVID respectful floral arranging workshops and specialize in florals for photographs (these shoots are usually for brands and companies to use in catalogues and online assets). And even though there are fewer events and online shopping has grown more than ever, I freelance for large event planners and work with little flower shops- so I can still work with fresh cuts and I get to drive a delivery van even though I don’t have a retail shop anymore… I love it!

Colonial House of Flowers is still the same in essence, but now we operate differently. As a result of moving and working during a pandemic, workshops are smaller, floral recipes are more flexible, time to plan is shortened, event work is scarce and there’s not a roster of employees… Customers and work have become harder to come by and it can get lonely sometimes.

However, as of August, CHOF is based in a big, urban city. Atlanta is across the state and a world away from rural south Georgia – our roots since our opening in 1968- but the industry has been kind to us here. I feel like we have been taken in, hired, and helped. The people are nice and it is exciting! It’s warm and it feels welcoming…

Although our shop has always focused on giving back to our community, now we’ve found new ways. For example, this year a portion of each sale will be donated to Made by Dyslexia.

What can you tell us about the benefits of having flowers in your life? How have they impacted yours?

I really believe that we need beauty in our life. We need it now more than ever. It makes me emotional. When you turn down to basic needs, people you need to see, things you have to do, you need that beauty to lift you up. It’s important and it’s kind of forgotten.

Rosaprima roses affect all of our senses. They’re important when everyone is so down.

What inspires you to create such beautiful designs?

When I began working at the flower shop, designing floral arrangements was very hard. I’m a perfectionist and I would get frustrated when the flowers didn’t look quite as I had envisioned.

I had to learn that sometimes you need to step back and say “it doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful.”

Now I say it and I can walk away.

This reflection was very important to me, it changed the way I worked with flowers. Next thing you know we put a sign up outside the shop that read: “It doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful.” Ever since then people have written to me telling me that these words have been so liberating, especially in design.

The thing is, there is beauty in all stages of life -birth, living, and dying of people and plants. If you see my designs you’re going to see a dying hydrangea or something in a bud state. That is the beauty of working with nature.

Tell us about your latest installation in the Swan House.

RSVP events asked me to collaborate on the floral she’s styling for Julie Paisley. Let me start by saying, it’s a terrible time to consider a project like this given industry challenges in regard to pricing, profits, availability, and supply chain disruptions. Plus, on a personal level, I am in the middle of frightfully moving to a brand new city during a pandemic. As serendipity would have it, I have to tell you that I long dreamed of working with these creatives. When the vision board for the photography workshop on the property of The Swan House at Atlanta History Center was shared, I felt so happy, grateful, and excited. How could I say anything but, yes!

Not only are these two celebrities among their field, but there is also no other place that more iconically captures the landscape and history of Atlanta than these 33 acres of this venue. As a child, I heard stories from my Grandmother and mother about the Cyclorama, housed on this property. Ironically, the first place I had lunch with a client in Atlanta was at the Coach House also on this property. When I brought my son to a reading camp at the Schenck School last year we lived right down the street and admired the property when we passed every day.

I developed a floral recipe to respect the times and the places of this moment in our world’s history, of everyone attending there with me’s history — and my business, my children’s, my husband’s and my history, too. On Julie’s website, the description of the affair says, “since we can’t go to France let’s pretend we are there.” I wanted to create something that honors Marie Antionette’s love of the garden and roses – but in Georgia. Rosaprima, who is a big part of the CHOF story, shared the fresh cut roses from Ecuador to pair with the American Grown greenery. Meanwhile, Kennicott Wholesale, with whom I wasn’t a customer, agreed to accept the product. My husband built the arch. Everything came together so gracefully among such struggle it seems a sign from the Universe, a sign that said: welcome.

So much grace is involved to pull this off that it’s clear the beautiful moment is meant to happen. The world was meant to see the beauty the flowers had to say that day!

Why do you like roses? What’s your favorite Rosaprima variety?

Roses are special. To me, they represent an old-world beauty like no other flower. Did you know there are fossils of roses that go back millions of years? They’re beloved around the world — across cultures, always have been. They’re used in food, drink, medicine, and they’re communicative. I love all flowers but the possession of something so intrinsically fascinating to people and animals makes the rose powerful.

Roses are more recognized than any flower as they instinctively appeal to women, men, young, old, rich, poor, and all races. I believe roses are the most intuitively beautiful flowers and therefore speak a universal language we all understand. They unite us. I believe flowers let hope bloom. Rosprima is legendary for uncompromising quality and exceptional craftsmanship. Rosaprima sets the standard where all roses are measured. As an artist, flowers, leaves, branches, and berries are my medium. When I use Rosaprima I am using the world’s greatest tool to speak my language – flowers.

And my favorite? Oh, I love them all. The one that sticks out is Polar Star, it’s so handsome and big! It opens up beautifully.

But I also love Juliet.

Free Spirit also opens up huge and people love it.

And Beatrice is special to me because that’s the name of my daughter.

Finally is also one of my favorites.

Working with roses is just exciting! When you do something artistic or creative you are in the zone. Your mind can wander while you’re doing it, moving flowers around, getting dirt in your fingernails, getting your finger pricked. Floral design is messy- lots of people think or have this idea that floral design is dirty, but to me yes, it can be a bit messy but it is also very luxurious. It’s a dance, getting dirty, moving things around, it’s hard work but the final product is amazing.