Hands of an artist

Nancy Hartz, Kroger’s master floral designer at 3120 S. University Drive, was organizing and arranging flowers in the floral department to make them look just so. This is the routine for the vibrant redhead with the magical floral touch almost every day in the floral department near the entrance of that Kroger store.

“You can see my hands aren’t the prettiest, but something is always sticking you,” Hartz said.

Spoken as a true artist. The wear of the years of making beautiful designs serves only as a reminder of Hartz’s passion. Flowers have been a central part of her lifestyle for many years.

“It is so amazing, the flowers; the way they look, the way they feel, everything about it is so visual and emotional for me,” Hartz said. “It’s hokey, but it’s true. It’s really one of the only things that makes me happy,” she said.

Originally from Arlington, Texas, Hartz has always had a knack and a hunger for floral arts. Her fascination with floral design began when she was a Girl Scout and was encouraged to gather and absorb nature.

“My first job, when I was 15, was in a flower shop processing flowers,” Hartz said. “They came in from the wholesalers or the growers and I cut them all and put them in buckets and processed them and it was a really hard job, but I loved the atmosphere and I loved the flowers,” Hartz said.

She eventually moved to the design room and earned her Texas Master Florist and FTD (Florists’ Transworld Delivery) Master Designer certifications.

With such a gift, Hartz competed around the country for quite a while as a designer and won many awards including the Fort Worth Cup and the Texas Cup.

“The competitions are fun and I was willing to take the abuse of the judges,” Hartz said. “It’s like anything; like you take fashion or cakes on TV, when you’re dealing with art it’s subjective,” Hartz explained.

As is true for most art forms, stylistic differences are present even in floral design.

“Everybody has his or her own styles,” Hartz said. “You can see something and identify the artist with the arrangement because everybody has his or her little tweaks,” she said.

Hartz then opened her own business and catered events such as the opening of the Texas Motor Speedway when she received a contract for 300 tent arrangements.

Eventually, she sold her business and moved to Florida to work for a flower grower where she sold flowers to flower shops, but after her dad passed away, she moved back home to Arlington to be with her mother.

“When I moved back home, I thought that maybe I would do something different,” Hartz said. “Well, the flowers just are in me. I’ve done it for 35 years and there was not much else I could think of to do and on a whim I filled out an application to do floral at Kroger and they called me within two hours. It’s been seven years since,” Hartz said.

Hartz is fond of working at Kroger because of the selection and value of the flowers.

“If you can go from the grower straight to retail, without the middleman, that’s how you save a lot of money,” Hartz said. “That’s how we have flowers that are so beautiful, but reasonable also,” she said.

Hartz has done flower workshops for Kroger managers with less experience.

“It’s fun to train people who are so excited; even they think it’s a lot easier than it is,” Hartz said. “Then they work for a week or so and could hardly walk out the door at the end because these things come in buckets and boxes and have to be chopped and dipped and priced and, you know, that kind of stuff is time consuming and very physical,” Hartz said.

She said most people think they just stand back there and “throw little flowers in a vase, but that’s the easy part.”

Hartz explained that there are downsides to a career as a floral designer, but they have yet to slow her down.

“The beauty of the plants and flowers, how they grow, where they grow and how happy it makes people to get them is something that, for me, is automatic,” Hartz said.

Hartz is a strong believer in the concept that simple is better. She explained how she appreciates wildflowers, not just farm grown, as well as a technique for washing wild plants and flowers with Dawn dishwashing liquid to rid them of bugs before putting them on display in the house.

“We call it ‘Midnight Wholesale’ or ‘Roadsidia,’ meaning we go in the car and cut it off the side of the road,” Hartz said.

“I’m a big fan of that because I like wild stuff but (to rid them of bugs) you take Dawn dishwashing liquid and put it in the sink or the bathtub and swish it around,” Hartz said. “Lay anything you cut out of the yard in it and soak it. Soap is a surfactant, which means it closes up all the little holes, so the bugs will die. Let them sit for about 10 minutes and then rinse them off and you’re good to go,” Hartz said.

“I used to always pick Paint Brushes when I was a little kid and bring them to my mom and my mom would put them in a vase and the little bugs would crawl out all over the place, but she never ever, ever complained to me about that,” Hartz said.

She explained that her favorite flower is always changing but right now, Hartz favors tropical flowers including Bird of Paradise and Ginger.

Floral design is very much a career based on customers and working with people. Hartz said she not only enjoys the flowers, but the customers as well.

“You deal with people when they’re sad and you comfort them; and you deal with people when they’re happy, like getting married, and you try to make it the best day of their life; and you deal with people who just want flowers on their table everyday,” Hartz said.

Hartz explained that not many people in the United States purchase flowers at the grocery store regularly just for the simple personal pleasure as they do in other countries.

“People think, well I won’t get that because it will die.” Hartz said. “Well, you will die…,” she said.

Hartz’s flower shop is an FTD store so if a customer wants to send something elsewhere, she can wire it. Hartz said that, if the delivery is close, she usually just delivers it herself.

She is even contemplating the start of anniversary reminders to remind customers that it is time to buy something for their spouse or special someone.