Flowers in her blood

Lynn Ernest
  • Florist at Living Colour Florist in Rotorua

Flowers were a common, and colourful presence, in Lynn Ernest’s life for a long time before she took the leap to follow her passion and take up studying the New Zealand Certificate in Floristry (Level 2) online with the Open Polytechnic.

Now working full-time as a florist at Living Colour Florist in Rotorua, she is living her dream and being mentored by one of the best in the industry.

Flowers in her blood

Lynn says her passion for flowers started at a young age and sowed the seed for her future career.

“Wanting to be a florist has been at the back of my mind since I was five years old. My Aunty worked for a florist, another Aunty is a floral designer and my Mum always had beautiful gardens. I really love being around flowers - they make me happy and everybody else happy.”

However, Lynn’s path took her in a slightly different direction before getting back on the floristry track.

“I was a dairy farmer for around 11 years. You probably couldn’t get a more different job! But eventually the pull of flowers was too strong, and I ended up finding a job at a local wholesale nursery where they grow gerberas.

“I really loved it there. We sold to florists. I found that increasingly I wanted to make flower arrangements and bouquets with the flowers I was picking.”

Putting petal to the metal

It was in 2019 when Lynn finally decided to pursue her dream and start researching floristry courses. Lynn found that many of the floristry courses offered meant you had to take time off work and that wasn’t going to work for her.

“I didn’t want to take time off work and preferred staying in Rotorua. It was while working at the wholesalers that I learned about the New Zealand Certificate in Floristry at Open Polytechnic.”

After enrolling in the online programme, Lynn says “everything just seemed to fall into place after that.”

Mentored by the best

Lynn was able to keep working at the wholesalers while studying and it was through that connection she was guided to Living Colour Florist where she got her practical experience – and later a job.

“Nina is a well-known florist who has won many awards, both in New Zealand and internationally. I was initially nervous to approach her as I had read magazine articles about her. For me in this industry it was quite a big deal and I was absolutely stoked when she allowed me the opportunity to do work experience there.”

Lynn says she remembers her first day very well as it was in the midst of ball season, but her studies had set her up well for the challenge ahead.

“On my first day of work experience, it was ball season and the very first thing you do in the course I was studying at the time was to make a buttonhole. So straight away I was asked, in your course did you learn how to do this? I said yes, showed her and she said perfect. I spent the whole day doing them.”

Lynn says she feels very lucky to be mentored by one of the best in the industry.

“Nina is amazing, I really admire her, and she has been a great mentor to me and helped fuel my passion.”

After completing her work experience and the three courses that make up the New Zealand Certificate in Floristry (Level 2), Lynn was offered a full-time job working at Living Colour and hasn’t looked back.

“Nina said I had a natural talent and picked things up really fast. She recognised I was soaking it all up as I really wanted to do this - and could tell I had the drive and passion.”

Learning floristry online

Lynn says she initially came across a bit of scepticism when she told people she was learning floristry by online distance learning.

“Everybody thought, because it’s a floristry qualification – how are you going to learn the techniques? But it was actually brilliant. The course tutor Megan did a really great job with demonstrating the different techniques on the step-by-step course videos, which was so informative.

“I’m a visual learner and I loved the fact you can pause and go over parts of the video again if you need to. The course is made up of three, 20 weeks blocks giving you plenty of time to complete the course which is really good for people working full-time. I really appreciated that.”

The support received during her studies also helped Lynn with completing the qualification successfully.

“When I was unsure, I would contact the course tutors and they got back to me pretty quickly. There was always somebody to help me. It was my first experience of distance learning and for me I loved it.

“I also have an amazingly supportive partner who says you do whatever makes you happy – so that helped too!”

Future goals and advice

Lynn says her next goal is to become a fully qualified florist and continue studying.

“There is actually a real art to doing floristry properly and I want to learn as much as I can and become fully qualified.”

Her advice to anyone looking to do floristry, or any other course through online distance learning, is to just give it a go.

“My advice if people are already looking online is to just go for it! Everyone thinks you’re not going to get enough information online – but you do. It’s better than you think!”

Lynn says her future looks bright and she is excited for what is to come.

“I feel very lucky to be where I am working for an amazing florist. I feel my studies and the experience I am gaining has set me up so well for the future.

“Flowers are involved in every occasion. Funerals, weddings, birthdays. Anything, anytime. They are a wonderful creation of nature – I just absolutely love them!

And her favourite flower? “I have many, but my favourite is Larkspur – which is a little mini delphinium.”

My advice if people are already looking online is to just go for it! Everyone thinks you’re not going to get enough information online – but you do. It’s better than you think!

Career change