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Morrisville State College alum’s success in floral industry stems from college experience

MORRISVILLE, N.Y.—Tables brimming with vibrant-colored bouquets, boutonnieres and floral-crafted pumpkins filled a production room in Morrisville State College’s horticulture complex—the work of horticulture students diligently transforming stems of miniature Calla Lilies, roses and other blooms into stunning showpieces.

They were there helping Melissa Orth, a Morrisville State College horticulture graduate who flew in from California to prepare a floral array for a weekend family wedding.

Dozens of students answered the call to assist and learn from the Class of ’08 alum who moved to California shortly after she graduated from the college’s horticulture floral design program. A career blossomed not long after for Orth who first worked in floral wholesale then managed a floral shop before venturing out on her own and starting her business, Poppytree Floral Designs in southern California.

“My love for this business grew so large that I knew I had to make a move and start my own business,” Orth said. “If someone told me five years ago that I’d now be married, living in California, and starting my own business I would have never believed them.”

Amid a sea of flowers from a local wholesaler and others shipped in from California, teams of eager student-volunteers stopped in to help craft table arrangements, while others wrapped ribbon around boutonnieres, created bouquets, and offered assistance with anything Orth needed.

“These students are so wonderful to work with and I couldn’t do all of this without them,” said Orth who conjured up the floral theme, designs and color combinations.

Work began when bundles of flowers in deep, rich fall colors arrived at the college, which first had to be processed by students before any design could begin.

“This experience with Melissa is an amazing opportunity for our students,” said Dave Soucy, assistant professor in the Horticulture Department. “We don’t normally get to work with high-end flowers like this.”

The opportunity provided by the horticulture program is what the budding entrepreneur credits as the foundation for her success.

“The hands-on experience from the program—experiences like this one—gave me everything I needed,” said Orth, who also does freelance floral work for other designers. “This is an industry filled with opportunity and if you take advantage of it, you can always learn something new.”

Jillian McCullum, a horticulture business management bachelor of technology major, lives by those words and was among students who took advantage of the chance to work with Orth.

“I jump on any opportunity to learn something new,” she said. “This isn’t something we get to do every day.” McCullum, who wants to run her own floral shop someday, already has an associate degree in horticulture floral design from Morrisville under her belt and works part-time at a local flower shop.

During her visit, Orth also gave a presentation to students about her experiences in the horticulture industry and offered guidance to those seeking a similar career path.

The wedding floral arrangement experience is just one of many offered by the college’s Horticulture Department. In addition to assisting with weddings during the semester, students also help run the Horticulture Institute located in the horticulture complex, an enterprise which hosts annual flower and plant sales for the college and community.

Morrisville offers an associate degree in horticulture with concentrations in floral design, horticulture production, landscape development/management, or general transfer, an associate degree in landscape architectural studies, and a bachelor degree in horticulture business management. State-of-the art facilities include modern greenhouses, a landscape design studio, and a student-run floral shop.

Morrisville State College sets the world in motion for students. Curriculums are enriched with applied learning and pave the way for opportunity at both the Morrisville and Norwich campuses. An action-oriented, interactive learning lab, the college is a national leader in technology. Lauded for its exemplary, innovative and effective community service programs, the college was named to the 2010 President’s Higher Community Service Honor Roll. Visit to experience, Morrisville in motion.