After spending most of her life in the floral industry, Killian Florist owner Janet Killian is still pursuing ways to bring innovative designs to Laramie and the floral community.

Three years into her journey to become an American Institute of Floral Designers member, Killian was accredited by the institution July 3.

“It’s quite an elite group,” Killian said. “I believe there are only about 850 members in the U.S.”

Killian Florist Manager Colleen Downey said two other florists in Wyoming have earned the honor.

“There’s one in Sheridan, and one in Jackson,” Downey said. “I pushed (Killian) to apply, because I thought it was about time someone in our region earned the recognition they deserved.”

The institute was established in 1965 and boasts 1,500 members worldwide, according to a news release. As a nonprofit organization, it is dedicated to maintaining and recognizing the highest standard of floral design, the news release states.

“It all started when I got involved with a group of people in Denver,” Killian said. “We wanted to do it just to say we could.”

Membership is earned by passing a series of written and hands-on tests.

“You start with a book where you learn anything and everything you could possibly want to know about flowers and floral design,” she said. “Once I got involved, it was a challenge, and it was like, ‘Yes. I can do this.’ And, you meet a fabulous group of people that are very encouraging.”

After completing the written test online, she said she participated in a physical test.

“I was in a room with about 100 other people, and we all had the same exact flowers and the same exact containers,” Killian said. “We had five hours to complete four designs. They’re all judged independently on the five elements of design.”

The membership is just one of many feathers in the florist’s hat. Killian Florist was founded by Killian’s father 70 years ago, and she said she grew up helping out around the shop.

“When we were little kids, we would sweep the floors and pack the pots,” Killian said. “I’m proud to say we’re the oldest single-family owned business in town.”

She attended the University of Wyoming and earned a degree in music, but after her father died, she returned to the shop to help her mother run it.

“I think the most important thing for a floral designer is the flower giving,” Killian said. “It can be a very personal thing. It’s great to be able to follow a family through their lives — from their birth to losing their parents.”

Marilyn Engstrom, a lifelong friend of Killian’s, said the florist was not only a gentle teacher, but an excellent employer.

“When I retired, I was looking for something to do and Janet hired me on,” Engstrom said. “I worked there for four years doing the little things like making deliveries and processing the flowers.”

One of the things that impressed Engstrom the most during her employment was the way Killian handled the customers.

“If an order was not just quite right, she would replace it with no questions asked,” she said. “She took that criticism and dealt with the public in the very best fashion.”

Killian said the key to remaining successful for 70 years was twofold — provide excellent customer service and the best quality product available.

More than just quality ingredients, she said continuing to learn about her trade and excel in floral design helped ensure her customers received unique arrangements.

“The artistic part of it is fun,” Killian said. “To pick up on an idea someone had and bring it to life allowing them to live through your creation — it’s amazing.”

After working with Killian for 10 years, Downey said she’s never met anyone with Killian’s astute grasp of floral design.

“Anybody can go to Safeway and buy a bunch of flowers,” she said. “But very few people can do what (Killian) can do with just a few flowers.”

Striving for the floral designer membership inspired Killian to pursue higher levels of design training, and perhaps even pursue an international accreditation, Killian said.

“I think I would like to become a presenter at the next American Institute of Floral Designers symposium,” she said. “There’s always something more to achieve.”

Located at 312 S. Third St., Killian Florist is open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Mondays-Fridays and 9 a.m.-noon Saturdays. The shop can be reached by calling 745-5555.

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