This summer, while flipping through the Mercury Messenger, a newsletter for florists created by the FTD, Nancy Gilbert’s eye was caught by one particular item.
It was an announcement inviting florists to submit applications for the first-ever “Intern with Ian” contest, which would give the winner an opportunity to work with master designer Ian Prosser.
Mr. Prosser, who owns Ian Prosser Productions, has created floral arrangements for Queen Elizabeth and celebrities including Tom Cruise and for the inaugurations of presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. He owns two locations in Florida.
Ms. Gilbert, owner of Country Petals in Peconic, emerged as contest winner. She was flown to Tampa on Oct. 19 and spent three nights in the Sunshine State, working on three multi-million-dollar weddings with Mr. Prosser and his team. She also worked independently on an anniversary party for one of his clients.
“Working with Ian and his team — his team was sharp, smart and they made me feel right at home — was so exciting,” said Ms. Gilbert.
The second she arrived at Mr. Prosser’s studio, she said, he handed her a wreath and asked if she could make 10 more.
On the day of one of the weddings, she and Mr. Prosser’s team arrived eight hours in advance to decorate. They hung foliage on the top of each tent post to make them look like palm trees. They hung the wreaths she’d made on every entrance gate and placed large flower centerpieces on each table, among other arrangements.
“It was harder than I expected because I had never worked with that many people on that large a scale before,” she said. “I do so much of my own work myself … I take pride in every detail of the work I do. It’s important to someone to have the best for their wedding. It may be another event to me, but it’s their day.”
Ms. Gilbert said she was honored to have been personally chosen by Mr. Prosser, saying he picked her because he noticed her attention to detail and felt she could benefit the most from his expertise.
“She’s in a fantastic area with lots of wineries,” he told the Mercury Messenger. “She really has the opportunity to land more wedding business … I just hope it was as positive for her as it was for me and that she can take what she learned this weekend and continue increasing her event business sales.”
Ms. Gilbert, who’s owned Country Petals for 27 years, said she learned she won the contest over the summer after she submitted pictures of six floral pieces she created and a written statement.
While cutting flowers one day, she saw FTD come up on her caller ID, but let it go to voicemail, thinking they would be trying to sell her something. Instead, a representative said they were calling about the contest, so Ms. Gilbert picked up.
“I picked it up and I said, ‘You’re going to tell me I won, right?’ in my little New Yorker, pessimistic view,” Ms. Gilbert said. “And she said ‘Yes, you won.’ I said, ‘You’re kidding me’ for like five minutes. I couldn’t believe I won the contest. You know, you never think of a little local florist having an opportunity like that.”