Laura Iarocci never imagined she would be leading floral tours in Europe when she started working with flowers almost 20 years ago, first with the flower guild at the Cathedral of St. Philip in Atlanta, Georgia, and later with her own studio, Faith Flowers in Atlanta’s Virginia-Highland neighborhood. But she had an epiphany while visiting the Netherlands when her father was the U.S. Ambassador.
“When we were visiting, we saw amazing flowers and gardens, and I kept thinking that I wanted to share this experience with my flower friends,” says Iarocci.“ So in 2008, I started to plan a flower tour centered around floral arranging.” She was introduced to Gudrun Cottenier, who runs the largest private flower school in Belgium, and Rob Plattel, a Dutch master florist, both of whom provided some direction. “I put together an itinerary that combined flower arranging classes with garden and market tours, wonderful dining experiences, and flower fun. Despite the downturn in the economy, we sold out our first tour.”
Since then, she has also planned trips to Belgium (“a center for design and a surprise for our travelers,” she says), London, Ireland, and California, with trips slated for Paris and Lyon. “The first thing we look for are places that have a special flower-centric experience. The Netherlands offers the amazing spring tulips, for instance. Last year we went to Floraliën in Belgium, which is the best flower show I have ever seen,” she says. “In England we oriented our trip around the Chelsea Flower Show.”
She also makes sure there are strong local instructors wherever they are, making her tours especially attractive to both novice and professional floral designers (but they’re open to anyone with a passion for flowers). She keeps the group small, with no more than 16 to 18 people, so they can have more-intimate experiences, like classes and meals in the instructors’ homes and studios. “On a typical trip,” she says, “we have four to five classes or workshops with a mix of designers with varying techniques, from those who create loose garden arrangements to someone who has a more formal style.”
The trips also include private tours of gardens. “There is nothing better than visiting a garden with a fellow flower lover who gets as excited about seeing new and different varieties as you do,” she says. While each tour is different, Iarocci makes one guarantee: “You will make new friends. We have single travelers and sisters coming together, mothers and daughters. By the end, everyone has made new friends.” Flowers and friendship—sounds like an ideal pairing.
By Alice Welsh Doyle | Photography courtesy of Laura Iarocci