A small flower on the side of the road caught her attention as she was on her way home from kindergarten and sparked a fire in the young girl.

It was a flower that she had never seen before, so she raced the rest of the way to look it up.

“I still remember what it was,” said Crystal Hill, a graduate of the Algonquin retail florist program. “It was a columbine.”

From kindergarten on, it was always clear that Hill had a passion for flowers. Every year she would fill out a sort of yearbook for her parents, to help watch their child grow. The book would always ask what she wanted to be when she grew up.

One year she would check off that she wanted to be an astronaut or a florist. Another year she would check off that she wanted to be a doctor or a florist. Year after year, the jobs changed, but florist was always one of her dreams.

It soon became clear that working with flowers was where she belonged when she won first place for her arrangements at the Canadian Acadamy of Floral Art both in 2006 and 2008.

The company prides itself on its great customer service and simple arrangements.

Most of their work consists of monochromatic or dual-toned colour schemes, and they try to use negative space with details like branches and moss to help the arrangement stand out.

It was a complete surprise, and an absolute honour when The Fresh Flower and Gift Basket Company was asked to create the floral arrangement for Jack Layton’s state funeral at Parliament Hill. They were the only flowers inside the Parliament building, and the two white arrangements were found both in centre block, just below Layton’s portrait, as well as on his desk as official opposition.

It was in high school when she did a co-op program at a flower shop where she finally got her first taste of the work.

She loved it.

“You never have the same day twice,” said Hill.

She continued on to do a four-month exchange in the Netherlands, where one of the leading exports is flowers and was able to work in the Keukenhof, a spring garden and the world’s second largest flower garden.

In the Netherlands, the floral programs can be up to five years. They are intensively hands on compared to Canadian ones. The Algonquin College retail florist program lasted one year, and after she graduated, Hill helped to keep it going for a little while before it ended.

Originally, the program was five days of in-class work, but Hill managed to help turn it into two or three days of in-class work, and two days of field work. It helped to save money on perishables, as well as taking up less floor space in the classrooms.

It helped for a while, but the program is no longer running.

“A lot of people viewed it as more of a hobby than a trade,” said Hill. “It’s too bad, because there aren’t many left. We’re lacking floral programs.”

In 1997, Hill started her work at The Fresh Flower and Gift Basket Company. She moved her way up to manager in 2000, and just last year became a co-owner of the business.

Valentine’s day is one of Hill’s least favourite times of year, because she finds it impossible to spend the right amount of time with a customer.

“It’s such a huge volume in such a short time,” said Hill. “We’re working with hundreds of orders within 13 hours. There’s just not a lot of time for customer service.”

Although Valentine’s Day is the worst, it happens again for a week around Mother’s day, and for a month around Christmas.

But before making it to where she is now, Hill stopped with flowers and went to work on car arrangement. Not so surprisingly, it didn’t work out.

“Sometimes you have to step out in order to see where you belong,” said Hill.