One of the beautiful things about living in Siouxland is the seasons we experience. It’s not always easy to appreciate in January or even August, when we experience the extremes, but it does provide us the opportunity to be reminded that life is cyclical. If we look carefully, with attention to detail, we will find beauty in each and every season.
Mercedes Ivener, owner of Honeysuckle Hollow Floral Design, describes the incredible beauty in nature as therapeutic and something we should all seek to include in every season of our lives.
Mercedes came to appreciate nature and flowers organically. Her mother and grandmother were Master Gardeners; both grandmothers had flower gardens that were the pride of their respective neighborhoods. She grew up in those gardens as well as exploring the mountains of Colorado hiking and backpacking that included attention to the native plants and wildflowers.
“I did the unthinkable though, I cut the flowers from the gardens and brought them inside. I’m not sure why my mother, aunts and grandmothers allowed it. They never did that. They appreciated the beauty of the garden outdoors, but I wanted to see the life cycle of that flower right in front of me. Right on that table.” Mercedes recalls.
She started a vase collection at 5 years old that continues today. She remembers being the only one in the family to bring the flowers indoors. That appreciation for a piece of nature indoors became vital as she entered her young adult years. After graduating law school, she found herself completely indoors for the vast majority of each day. Oftentimes going to work in the dark and coming home in the dark, left her feeling emotionally drained.
“Then I was asked to take on the Juvenile Justice cases at the firm.” Mercedes explained. “When I started going out to visit families, homes and schools, I started to find greater meaning in what I was doing.” Within a few years, she opened her own firm, specializing in juvenile law on a part-time basis while she balanced raising her own children. For more than fourteen years, she belonged to the world of law. “I loved juvenile justice,” she said “the social workers, lawyers, and advocates who work for these children are incredible people. They care deeply about the people they serve.” Caring deeply though, isn’t without risk. Years of reading case files, deposing individuals and visiting homes, led Mercedes to experience secondary effects of trauma.
“I made a New Year’s resolution to do some sideline, some cottage business, involving something creative,” She explains. “I needed it for my mental health. I thought about it for a little while and decided once a month I would host an open house featuring unique flowers. I’d invite a few friends over to show the flowers, talk about garden-style designs, and immerse in nature.” She admits that it being January in Iowa, may have sparked her yearning for flowers!
So she began in February, inviting friends to her home. Once a month she would order fresh and unique flowers, fed by the desire for natural beauty to invade the heavy world of law. Some of her first attendees were other lawyers, who also had a craving for nature in their workspaces. And by Mother’s Day (yes 3 months later) she realized this was too big for her home. At that point the floral open-houses literally invaded her strip mall law office on Singing Hills Boulevard. “I remember that Mother’s Day,” she says with a smile, “I had ordered these coral peonies that were gigantic and people were enthralled by them. I had so many orders, the peonies were literally throughout the entire house. I had to keep the house at 58 degrees in May to keep them fresh. That’s when my husband said, it’s got to go out of the house.”
The renewing she found when working with flowers, helped her continue her law work. She really did enjoy making a difference in the lives of children. But that year she had two especially difficult cases. Waking up in tears because the details could not be compartmentalized was when she realized she needed to step away from law. “Being a busy professional, having a family, taking care of everyone, you can forget to take care of the things that are innately you. I innately like harmony. Law is inherently about conflict. I realized that I needed to test that fluffy notion my parents had often expressed. “If you do what you love you’ll be successful.’”
“I really thought about it, some of the most interesting people I know have had different experiences in life, they’ve worked different careers, they’ve made changes.” Mercedes explains. “I knew I didn’t want a retail shop. At this time the notion of studio florists and event florists was just emerging.”
Through open-house events she began to build a client base that blossomed into monthly subscriptions and event engagements. Before she knew it this business was growing faster than a thistle in July. She loved it, immersed herself in it, and then the toll on her family became known, this devotion to the business had left little time for being a mom.
“So we pulled back the reins.” She says. “It was really hard to slow down the business knowing it had this incredible momentum, knowing I might be able to open a retail space and hire employees.” But in the end, what she really wanted was harmony in her life. Balance, just like you find in nature. And so the focus became events only. The “flower house” located at 3725 Jackson St, provides a space to meet with brides and event planners but doesn’t permit retail sales. The space is perfect for growing and arranging, while also providing living space for those hectic pre-event long nights and early mornings of design.
This season of being an event florist has provided opportunities to connect with new and different people. “I love being able to use local growers.” Mercedes notes. “Flower growing in the United States has started to thrive again. I’ve had the opportunity to meet and support local growers. But knowing we have months without fresh flowers here, I also get to order different products from anywhere in the world and try them out.”
Mercedes has enjoyed watching her own style continue to grow and evolve as she learns more about floral arranging. She likes to share knowledge with others and stresses the importance of involving nature in your life. The workshops she conducts now are about bringing nature indoors.
“Looking at nature in detail does something inside you.” She says, explaining that paying attention to the colors, shapes, textures and life cycles is incredibly beautiful. “What I really want is for people to see, really see, the beauty that is all around them.”
Mercedes recollection of rediscovering her creativity is validation that there is beauty in pursuing your calling. She talks about the changes in her life as tough, but positive experiences. She sees the beauty in each step she’s taken. “I have no regrets,” she said frequently. It is impossible to walk away from the conversation without recognizing how embracing each moment, each season life brings is a beautiful way to live.
By Cyndi Hanson