The Art of Everything By Mary Anne Pankhurst An interview with Robert Martin (Flowers Cornwall) on the Art of Floral Design

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Cornwall Ontario – It’s subzero outside and the November sun has begun its mid-afternoon descent. Yet, as it arcs ever downward, wide bands of warmish yellow light are suddenly streaming through the windows of Flowers Cornwall, right about the time Robert Martin says:

Flowers have a language. They can and do speak to us.”

Robert and I are seated in a cozy corner of his shop, surrounded by a Christmassy crush of living colour; potted red poinsettias, multi green-hued ivies and ferns, and fuchsia and hot pink Schlumbergera.  But I’m pensive for a moment, after his language comment, recalling one of Degas’ most famous paintings. Yes, Robert. Flowers do speak. Even in November.


“We’re similar to painters because the goal of the floral design artist is to send a message, to elicit an emotion.”

It’s a perfect parallel. But surely in working with “living media” there are challenges painters know nothing about (?)

Robert is nodding, and divides the challenges in two broad categories: The day-to-day [challenges] and those that stem from a changing global marketplace.

“First, one has to know the plants and flowers themselves, how they behave, the technical aspects of design, and the cultural significance of certain flowers. All these require education, training, experience, time and commitment.”

Then there’s the twice-weekly flower auction in Montreal. It demands a 4 a.m. start time after which – on Tuesdays alone – Robert will return with around 10,000 fresh stems.


Robert lists some additional features on the landscape of the florist’s day-to-day: Wedding season, calendar events (like Valentine’s), major life events (like births), and special occasions.

There are also the deliveries, including daily out-of-town trips to places like Casselman and St. Isidore, Ontario; Valleyfield, Quebec; Akwesasne, and Massena, New York.

And if all these are not enough, the marketplace has created new realities that impact both the top and bottom line.

The number of privately owned florist shops has declined sharply as customers purchase their flowers online, or pick up their posies in gas stations and grocery stores.

So what does this mean for Cornwall, will we lose our floral design artists?

No, says Robert:

“There’s more innovation now, and plenty of passion and artistry here.”

Remember, if there’s art in what you do, I want to hear from you via

alpins aoe


  1. Yes flowers sure do speak to us and I love gardening. This spring my balcony is going to bloom as well between herbs, flowers and tomato plants not to mention other veggies. What a beautiful painting in the background with a lady from the old times with a vase of flowers on the table. That struck my eye when I saw that. I do needlepoint as well as quilting and I appreciate art. I was given an old piece of clothing by my son today while going through his garbage in the locker (garbage man where are you? LOL LOL) and I appreciate every piece that is good for quilting and it was something that I had my eye on for a while to blend in with the rest of my stash. Yippee. Anyway getting back to flowers there is something called “potpourri” that I would love to do one day with wilted flowers. I did learn about the different oils that are purchased and I must try my hand at it as well. Everything is very well laid out in that store along with the poinsettias for Christmas. Again what a beautiful painting in the background.

  2. Inspiring indeed!! I love the painting, it certainly accomplished it’s goal. The ladies face is very interesting. The emotions it conveys are varied and very interesting.

    Mary Anne if I may, thank-you for the offer, it was appreciated. Due to personal reasons, I must decline….it may be life threatening for me to do so lol. All kidding aside. who knows perhaps in the future.

  3. Stella it’s a shame that more of our area artists are not being supportive of Mary Anne’s work. Luckily some are. And there are some very nice projects, pieces, and events coming down the pike!

  4. Jamie……Mary Anne is doing a super job. I am being sincere when I say that.

    Her subject matter is well chosen, well presented, professional and inspiring to say the least. I hope she continues as I am sure many like myself who are into art or are inspired by it will greatly appreciate what she is doing.

    It’s about time someone took the initiative……..thank-you Mary Ann and Jamie because this allows everyone to see the fine work and it certainly give one a better appreciation of local artist.

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