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Florist fills tall order: Bush's inauguration

It's another high- profile event for a resume that includes presidents and princesses.

By SHERRI DAY
Published January 17, 2005


PALMA CEIA - Ian Prosser is anticipating every step President Bush and the first lady will take on Inauguration Day. But he's no Secret Service agent, party operative or partisan stalker.

As the inauguration's floral design chairman, he's supposed to make sure more than 250,000 flowers sit just so atop tables and stages at more than a dozen state dinners, inaugural balls and the star-studded presidential gala.

His biggest challenge? To motivate a 200-person volunteer design team to create more than 3,500 floral arrangements.

"I'm not panicked," Prosser, 47, said this month, hours before he boarded a plane to Washington, D.C., for a design consultation. "But now you start to realize the magnitude of what's about to take place. It's a nice challenge."

Prosser expects to spend 11 days in Washington, working 18-hour stretches for no pay.

The Society of American Florists, a trade association of florists and growers that has provided Inauguration Day flowers since the Kennedy administration, in December picked Prosser to lead this year's efforts. First, Prosser bested more than 200,000 florists to earn a spot on the inauguration's floral design team, an honor he earned twice before. In 1993, he worked on President Bill Clinton's inauguration. Eight years later, he helped coordinate President Bush's presidential bashes.

Prosser's road to the White House began in his native Wishaw, Scotland. He credits his father, a gardener, with planting seeds for his affair with flowers.

Prosser entered Woodburn Horticultural College in 1973, at age 16, while working as a florist's apprentice for the equivalent of about $13 a week. Early in his career, he was part of a team of florists who created arrangements for Mao Tse-tung's 1976 funeral . A year later, Prosser was named Scotland's floral designer of the year. He was 19, the youngest person to receive the award.

It wasn't long before Prosser opened three floral shops in and around Glasgow. His flowers graced the tables, wrists and attire of almost every notable female member of Britain's Royal family, Prosser said. Working with high-society types gave Prosser certifiable buzz. But balancing high-profile events with weddings and other floral requests left him little time to spend with his family. His wife's parent s spoke of better living in the United States.

Prosser followed their path, bringing his wife and two daughters to Palma Ceia in fall 1985. He indulged his passion for flowers, working for three years at the now-defunct Bachelor Button shop on Bay to Bay Boulevard. In 1989, he opened Botanica International Florist shop.

Although visions of presidential arrangements fill Prosser's head, he's also thinking about responsibilities back home. Customers are bringing in Gasparilla wreaths in need of freshening. And the summer wedding season will soon consume him.

Prosser's wife would like him to slow down, but he won't.

"I'll probably die with a flower in my hand and a design knife," Prosser said.

[Last modified January 17, 2005, 01:05:20]


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