Get to Know Tonia Benson at Blooms and Things

Blooms & Things

8 South Main Street

Albia, Iowa 52531


Phone: 641-932-7008

What got you into the Floral Industry?
I have always been, and will always be in love with all things wedding and wedding
planning. For four years I was the Wedding Sales Manager at Honey Creek Resort
in Moravia, IA. I worked with Mike’s Blooms & Things on several different events through the years and always appreciated a well designed bouquet. When my
husband and I decided it was time to expand our family, I thought it would be nice to be a little closer to home. So, halfway through my pregnancy, I saw Mike’s was
looking for a new manager, I checked it out, fell in LOVE with the floral world (and
my new son, Henry), then a year later I bought the shop I loved it so much! We’ve
renamed it Blooms & Things and it has been wonderful so far!
Areas of Specialty:
– Wedding Florals and Planning
– Personalized and Detailed Funeral Arrangements
– Certified Wedding Planner
– Working towards her ICF certification through the Iowa Florists’ Association
– Secretary of the AAYP (Albia Area Young Professionals)
– Voted as one of the Albia’s Chamber Board Members
Favorite flower and greenery type to work with and why:
If I HAVE to choose a favorite flower, I would most likely choose the ranunculus. They are so frilly, beautiful colors and if placed right in an arrangement can dance above the rest of the flowers. Such a pretty flower! I like everything eucalyptus. I’m really fond of the dusty sage color and the wonderful smell.
Favorite design style:
Garden Style or Natural.
What is a ‘must have’ staple to always have on hand:
Carnations, I know over the years carnations have received a bad rap, but they
come in SO MANY beautiful colors. They are ruffly and sweet, not to mention very
economical. Such a versatile flower if given the chance it deserves.
Frequently used words or phrases used around your Shops’ work family:
We like to keep it clean around the shop, so when we stub a toe or cut a flower too short, we might say “SHARKS” instead of… well you can fill in the blank! 🙂 We like to
call the shop flower world and you can often hear us reference the backup bucket for weddings or other events.
If you had one chance to convey your passion for all things floral to a huge group
of anti-florists (and cost wasn’t an issue), what would you say or do?
I would attempt to demonstrate the wonders of flowers and the happiness they can bring into peoples homes, offices or hospital rooms. As I put together an
arrangement (probably a large installation) I would try to educate the people of the benefits of flowers and what colors inspire what feelings, while focusing on some
of my favorite flowers and looks! Hopefully my enthusiasm will turn the haters into believers or at least make them consider it! 🙂
What is your goal when someone comes into your Shop for the first time?:
We hope that everyone that comes in our shop finds the prefect item or gift, that
they may not have even known they were after. We like to learn about the recipient and help them find the perfect arrangement, plant or other decor item that reflect
the person they are going to.
If you could change one thing about the way that Floral Designers are perceived – what would it be?
Our job is not just “easy” or “so much fun”. We actually work really hard to learn
each variety flower and it’s different preferences. Ordering the right amount of
flowers so we don’t run out or have too many. Keeping up with the latest trends and buying pretties that both fit the trending looks and desires of our customers but
also fit their spending plans. We are so lucky to tap into our creative outlets for
work everyday, but we aren’t just hanging out and playing with flowers all day.
What floral things are on your bucket list?
I am so excited to put together a large floral instillation someday. Something tall
and gorgeous, or maybe hangs from the ceiling.
What’s one thing that you wish the general customer knew?
The more freedom you give your designer along with good details of your event
and overall look your going for, the more unique and one of a kind your
arrangements will be. “Designers choice” arrangements are more often the most
beautiful pieces that go out of our shop!

Thank you for reading this post and learning a bit about one of the wonderful many member shops in Iowa! If you get the chance to drive through Albia, please pop in and say hi to Tonia and her crew! Thank you Tonia for sharing talent and pictures!

If you would like to have your shop featured on our blog. We would love to get to know you and your shop, and your specialties and what make you unique! What’s better is: IT’S FREE and so EASY to sign up! Here’s the form:

The Iowa Florists’ Association

PFDE Testing

Post Written By: Joanna Kalina, IMF, CFD

Pardon me as I get into writing a more personal post! Most of your know me as the nameless person behind these blog posts. But today, you get to see a little bit of what I’ve been preparing for in the past year and learn more about me!

One of the many things on my bucket list was to test and become AIFD certified. About this time last year, I decided that it was my year to start to prepare to test. It was a great, hard, wonderful and exhilarating experience all rolled into one – and time consuming. But as you all know, goals come with a price and sacrifice.

I studied and studied, practiced designing and using some of the different techniques and greenery manipulation. And then I took the Online part of the test, only to fail it. If you’re anything like me, knowledge testing is hard for me. It’s not that I don’t know the answers or even that I didn’t study. No, my brain just sort of psychs itself out and I start double and triple guessing myself and the answers. It’s great (NOT)! But, honestly – it’s okay! I’ve realized that it’s okay to know that knowledge testing is not one of my strong suits, but that it doesn’t exclude me from getting back up and trying again until I succeed! Does this sound familiar to anyone? Anyone else out there? Anyway, I finally got it on my 3rd try!

Kelsey Thompson, AIFD was my Mentor, as she poured over design pictures that I sent her, instructed me and set up a mock test for me to truly see what the real design test would be like. Thank you Kelsey – You were amazing!

Sandy Schroeck, AIFD also set up another mock test for me and answered a whole list of pre-test questions and gave good constructive criticism after the mock test. Thanks Sandy!

Flying into Las Vegas – stunning!
Out walking around at night – isn’t the view amazing!

Fast forward to July 3rd, I flew to Vegas all by my lonesome, stayed with a dear friend and got to look around Vegas a bit during the day time! Saw the Miracle Mile, Bellagio Fountain and Hotel. Met up with a few new friends that I knew were taking the PFDE test with me and we met at the Mon Ami Gabi Restaurant near the Paris Hotel for dinner (a.k.a. a salad, because our stomachs wouldn’t handle anything else).

On July 4th, check-in was at 10 am, after checking in I forced myself to see a sandwich, and waiting until 1pm for orientation. My new friends Melanie and Linda were kind enough to let me leave my personal belongings in their hotel room during the test.

All 150 students met in a bit conference room at the hotel, where we were greeted, able to ask questions and given our list of supplies and what we were to make when we were able to actually take the design test and start sketching with the pen and paper that we were given upon our entrance to the room.

About 2 pm, we all took a bathroom break, all the AIFD members were lining the pathway on both sides all the way to the actual design room clapping as we walked to the room. It was really sweet. The women in front of me was crying out of excitement and anticipation and probably some exhaustion. Some other students and their mentors were high-fiving.

We walked into the room where our tools were checked over and we were instructed to find our table number. Once everyone found their table, we were allowed to start checking in all our product and supplies, unwrap and organize everything – but we couldn’t start designing until 3pm.

At 3pm, we were told to START! It was finally here, this was the moment I had been waiting, planning, saving and preparing for, for a year. Crazy! I was so ready and petrified all in the same breath! IT WAS TIME!

There was a point where I forgot everything that I knew to do. I couldn’t even remember what colors went together. This happened I was making my casket spray – one of the pieces that I most enjoy making and I’m good at ( I make a LOT of them). Thankfully with a desperate uttered prayer, small pieces started coming back to me, and I somehow managed to get done with all 5 of my pieces done, my table cleared and set up with a little bit time to spare to look over everything and fine-tune each piece and make sure that I had all the Principles and Elements in each.

My whole table display. Thank you Linda for taking all the pictures for me.
Casket Spray featuring flower groupings.

For about 3 weeks, I fretted about whether I passed the design test or not.I frequently checked and rechecked my email to see if there was any new news, just to get scared and not want to check it, but end up checking it anyway, lol!! The answer finally came Friday, July 19, 2019. I PASSED! I PASSED! I PASSED! I’m invited to be inducted as a certified AIFD designer July 2020!

Here’s a few of the wonderful people from Canada that I met and had the pleasure of testing with! Linda Rambaud, CFD and Melanie CFD! So proud of you both!

My point in writing this long and over-due post, is to encourage you – wherever you are to go out there and set your goals and pursue them. They aren’t going to land into your lap with out your effort. It takes hard work and dedication. And sometimes, quite a few failures along the way, lol!

Thanks for reading!

Joanna Kalina, IMF, CFD

These Hands

Post written by Education Director and Board Member Kelsey Thompson

My son recently asked me “Mom, why do your hands always hurt?” 
I explained that Mommy works with her hands all day making flowers, cutting wire and washing buckets, so they get sore and cracked and dry from working.
But it got me to thinking…

These hands have hugged brand new dads when they come in to grab flowers for their amazing wives.

These hands have cradled babies and entertained toddlers when I’ve delivered to a young mom’s house and she

These hands have held books up for children to see the pictures as I’ve read for classrooms, or demonstrated a flower technique for a local girl scout group.

These hands have clapped for area students as they do their best in sports, music, art and life.

These hands have written checks for donations and assembled gifts for auctions and gone high in the air during bidding wars at fundraising galas and community dinners.

These hands have decorated churches and homes and backyards and cars and benches and about anything else you can think of!

These hands have grasped the hands of countless beaming girls as they proudly show off their new engagement ring.

These hands text brides-to-be at all hours of the night, answering questions and easing anxieties.

These hands have pinned flowers to shaky grooms and patted emotional dads on the back and run random errands for stressed moms.

These hands have moved in a blur as they create a gift or bouquet for the husband or wife that maybe kinda forgot it was their spouses birthday or anniversary until 5:20 PM.

These hands have taken the garbage out, moved furniture and mailed letters for elderly recipients.

These hands have shoveled snow – the recipient was getting flowers because he had surgery and his hands sure couldn’t go outside and do it.

These hands and arms have given so many hugs to people receiving deliveries for so many reasons…news of a cancer diagnosis, the death of a child, passing their nursing boards, accepting a new job, etc. The sender can’t be there, but my flowers and my hands can.

These hands have held mugs of coffee and lemon bars or cookies as I just sit and chat with the lonely woman that I’m delivering to. All her family live out of town and she misses them, so these hands hold pictures of her great grandkids as she proudly tells me stories that she’s only heard over the phone or email.

These hands have held the hands of grieving families as they choose final tribute pieces for their loved ones.

These hands have carefully cleaned up gravesites and decorated them with respect and care.

These hands fold every night in prayer and thank God for my family, His blessings and the many opportunities He’s given these hands to “work” in our community.