A Life with Flowers
Extension’s floral design education improves skills and strengthens small business
Story by Susan Collins-Smith • Photos by Kevin Hudson
Missy Brandon remembers gathering countless bouquets of the tiny blue-eyed bluets that grew in her parents’ yard when she was a child. She would place them in a miniature pottery vase made by her mom, who taught art and ceramics. Growing up, Missy gathered and arranged any and all kinds of blooms she could find.
“My mom told me once that she never knew how many flowers she had in her yard until I moved out,” she laughs. “Floral design is something I’ve always been interested in and done.”
Missy, who owns and operates Wild Flowers in downtown Belmont in Tishomingo County, has worked in several flower shops since she was 19. Mostly, she’s worked in small, locally owned flower shops, but she’s also spent some time in Kroger’s floral department.
“I’ve never had any formal training, but I’ve experienced floral design on all different levels,” she relates.
Missy opened Wild Flowers in 2016 and moved her business to its current downtown location when the building owner sold the property in 2020.
“I’ve done every aspect of the business over the years,” says Missy, who holds an associate’s degree in general business. “We just decided it was something we wanted to do. We jumped in with both feet.”
Although she has never had any formal floral design training, Missy has been honing her natural talent for more than two decades and learning from teachers like Dr. Jim DelPrince, a horticulture specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service.
Missy first met Jim about 20 years ago when he was doing design shows for flower shop owners in Tupelo. During the 7 years she’s operated Wild Flowers, Missy has benefited even more from Jim’s classes and Extension’s educational publications.
“The hands-on workshops Jim teaches have been the most valuable tool offered through Extension,” Missy explains. “Jim is a great teacher. He doesn’t tell you how to do something. He lets your creativity come through. He will show you mistakes or things you can do better. But he lets you decide how you are going to work it out or fix it.
“Anytime I can take a class of his, I do it. He’s taught me how to be more intentional in my designs, how to execute them more professionally, and how to make each one unique.”
Extension programs are vital to helping professional florists learn the science, art, and business of floristry, Jim points out.
“Our programs enable participants to learn science-based and best practices in floristry,” he emphasizes. “We are a higher education institution, not a business; thus, our programs stress the how-to and theories rather than center on a product and how to use it. We provide the foundation that retailers need to succeed.”
Jim says Missy’s love of her work is apparent, and Belmont is lucky to have her.
“Missy values every customer and is always working hard to make sure that her customers get the best floral expressions possible,” he says. “She and her husband have invested earnings from the shop back into downtown, to help keep businesses active there. That is vital to the health of any downtown.
“She understands that every sale not only helps her business, but it also helps the community grow and improve, too.”