Tigers in bloom

Tiger Garden is a full-service, student-run floral shop on Mizzou’s campus. Meet some of the student employees and find out how the shop is preparing for Valentine’s Day.

  • Amara Limberis, a junior Health Sciences major from Eden Prarie, Minnasota, arranges flowers in a vase.
    Junior Amara Limberis arranges flowers in a vase.

Feb. 10, 2021
Contact: Kenny Gerling, 

For the University of Missouri students who run Tiger Garden — a full-service floral shop managed by the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources’ Division of Plant Sciences — there’s no busier season than the lead-up to Valentine’s Day. Located in the Agriculture Building on Mizzou’s campus, you can find students in the shop five days a week snipping stems and wrapping roses for the pre-Feb. 14 rush. Show Me Mizzou checked in with some employees to learn about life as a student-florist, how they’re adapting to pandemic precautions and what it takes to make the perfect arrangement.

Gracie Alvarez

Junior, investigative journalism and political science major
From Little Rock, Arkansas
Has worked at Tiger Garden for three years

How’d you get involved at Tiger Garden?

My freshman year right before Valentine’s Day, I applied at Tiger Garden to help with cleaning and delivery driving. I went through the craziness and really enjoyed it. I stayed on and was trained on the job by older employees in floral design and plant maintenance. Now, I work as an employee, student leader and I also run social media for Tiger Garden. It’s a really nice break from politics and journalism, which can get intense.

What does it take to maintain all those plants?

We have a greenhouse with bigger plants, and we have to learn how to check if any have diseases, sicknesses or bugs. We train everyone new to take care of plants because it’s something we pay for every week. They come in a huge heated truck from St. Louis, and we get to go on there and pick out everything. We’re always getting fresh, new flowers, and I love using flowers I’ve never worked with before.

Is there something customers can do to make your job easier?

Information about the recipient is helpful, like their favorite color or flower. Every customer is picturing an arrangement in their head, even if they can’t put it into words. We try to help them and make something they love.

Eliane Botts

Senior, German major, plant science and art minor
From Columbia, Missouri
Has worked at Tiger Garden for three-and-a-half years

You’re a German major. Does that bring a different perspective to your work at Tiger Garden?

A lot of German florists want more local flowers and for everything to be environmentally friendly. There are also differences in culture. In Europe, it’s common to have flowers in your house year-round. In America, it’s more special occasion oriented. Eventually, I intend on getting a master’s in German, and I’ve applied for a study abroad program with an internship. If I get in, I want to intern with a flower seller or wholesaler in Germany and bring that knowledge back to America.

Besides Valentine’s Day, what are some other big holidays for Tiger Garden?

One of our big spikes is sorority initiations. Not every sorority does it, but a few give flowers, and we make up to 60 arrangements for them. This year, unexpectedly, bid day was huge. So, at the last minute, we got a bunch of orders.

Do you have a favorite arrangement to make?

In the flower world, a “designer’s choice” is the best because you can use your creativity. If you want a good arrangement that is creative and fun, always trust your designer.

Amberlee Gandy

Senior, agricultural education (communications and leadership) major with a certificate in floral design
From Gower, Missouri
Has worked at Tiger Garden for three years 

What’s your job at Tiger Garden?

I have two roles: I’m on our student leadership team, and I’m one of the classroom teaching assistants. I help teach one of the introductory design courses and a weddings course. I just recently decided I want to do this full time, and now my goal is to be a wedding and event florist.

When do you start preparing for Valentine’s Day?

Valentine’s Day is one of our main focuses, so we probably start preparing in October. Over winter break, we flipped the entire shop and put up Valentine’s Day decorations. We had it ready to go by the time students came back to campus.

Anything people should know before ordering?

We have add-ons like stuffed animals, candy and other gifts that can be included in the arrangement. We also have cool stuff like the option to create your own date-night box. Traditional Valentine’s Day gifts are things like triple roses, but we also have pre-made arrangements that you can buy out of the cooler. Consider pre-booking your order, because, before Valentine’s Day, a lot of things sell quickly.

Alexandra Gast

Sophomore, agricultural education major with a certificate in teaching
From Nevada, Missouri
Has worked at Tiger Garden for two years

Did you have floral experience before Tiger Garden?

My dad is an agricultural teacher in Nevada, Mo., so I grew up in the greenhouse. I was transplanting and propagating plants from as early as I can remember. I came to Mizzou because its agricultural education program is the best in the state, in my opinion. When I found out there was an on-campus floral shop, I thought that was cool and my advisor said that Lesleighan [Kraft Cravens, plant sciences instructor and supervisor of Tiger Garden] would be a great mentor.

Where do you find design inspiration?

I watch a lot of YouTube videos, especially those by Hitomi Gilliam. She came to Mizzou last year and taught us a bunch of contemporary techniques. There are also a lot of mentors in the shop who I’ve learned from. It’s little by little, and you pick up different techniques as you go — and by taking floral design classes. Tiger Garden is unique because it’s all run by students. It’s a community where you make friends with the people you work with. It also gives you a chance to pursue knowledge and pass it on to other students.

When do you start preparing for Valentine’s Day?

We never really stop talking about Valentine’s Day, even when it’s over. You’re either preparing for it or recovering.

Amara Limberis

Junior, health sciences major
From Eden Prairie, Minnesota
Has worked at Tiger Garden for three years

How’d you get involved at Tiger Garden?

I worked at a flower shop in high school, so I applied at Tiger Garden my freshman year and got the job. Now I’m one of our student managers, but we all do a little bit of everything: Taking orders over the phone, making arrangements, learning about flowers, deliveries, things like that.

What makes a good Valentine’s Day arrangement?

Our theme for Valentine’s Day this year is “distance makes the heart grow fonder.” Since COVID, we’re encouraging deliveries rather than people walking in. We also have vases that look like envelopes and arrangements that match the theme with flowers and bright colors that make people happy. A lot of people love basic red roses, but fuller designs that have a unique shape are also popular right now.

What precautions are in place to keep everyone safe?

We wear masks and keep a 6-foot distance. There are also signs in the shop for walking one-way and plastic shields on the counters. Luckily, our design tables are big, so they keep us far apart while we’re working. We also have to check our temperatures and use hand sanitizer when we come into work. We also disinfect everything at the end of the day.

For more information on special Valentine’s Day deals and to place your order, visit Tiger Garden’s website.


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