Tiger Garden, the University of Missouri’s full-service, student-ran floral shop, opened its doors in 2005 and has provided numerous hands-on learning experiences for students across the MU campus.
Those opportunities are what brought Grace Anderson to Mizzou.
“I was really interested in the plant sciences degree program and when I toured, I had the opportunity to meet with Lesleighan (Cravens),” said Anderson, who is a senior plant sciences major at Mizzou. “That conversation sealed the deal and sold me on attending MU.”
Cravens is an instructor in the Division of Plant Science and Technology and oversees Tiger Garden. She is also the advisor for the Mizzou Student Chapter of the American Institute of Floral Designers (Mizzou SAIFD).
Anderson grew up on her family row crop farming operation in Illinois, developing a passion for plants through that work. She was introduced to specialty crops through her FFA supervised agricultural experience (SAE) project, which involved growing pumpkins for her local community.
“I’ve always enjoyed working with plants, and I wanted to continue to pursue that interest at Mizzou,” Anderson said. “I’ve loved all of the classes that I’ve been able to take. My professors are so personable. MU is such a large university, but my professors in plant sciences know my name.”
Anderson has been incredibly involved with Tiger Garden throughout her time at Mizzou, serving in a variety of roles, including working with the events team. That division of Tiger Garden was added in 2012 and is dedicated to making each party, wedding, reception or corporate event they work memorable.
Anderson has helped with events on the MU campus, at University Hospital and throughout the Columbia community, such as Veteran’s United.
“The events team has provided me with numerous opportunities, and I’ve grown so much through the work I’ve done,” Anderson said. “It’s been absolutely phenomenal. It’s also been very rewarding to interact with so many people in our community, and it’s incredible that I’ve been able to make so many connections as an undergraduate student.”
One of Anderson’s connections has led to an internship opportunity this year. She is a horticulture assistant at Veterans United, where she takes care of the multiple plants throughout their facilities. The internship just began, and Anderson will serve in the role throughout the summer. The opportunity will also serve as her capstone internship.
“Veterans United is growing so much and as they update their facilities, there are a lot of plants that need to be maintained,” Anderson said. “This is actually the first time they’ve ever offered this internship, and I’m honored to be in the role. It’s such a confidence boost that they are putting their trust in me. It’s been a great experience so far, and I’m excited to continue the work.”
Anderson has also gained hands-on learning experience through the Mizzou Visual Art and Design Showcase (VADS), a competition that she earned grand prize honors in last year. Anderson also traveled to Holland this year, for a CAFNR study abroad opportunity. The Holland program gives students a unique opportunity to visit the biggest flower wholesaler on the planet and take hands-on design classes to further understand Dutch horticulture.
“I’ve been really lucky to see not only the business side of floristry, through the events team, but also the artistic side, through the showcase and study abroad,” Anderson said. “Lesleighan is able to flip the switch between those two sides so quickly. She’s such an amazing instructor, and I’ve learned so much from her.”
Anderson said she is planning on graduating early, in December, and is hoping to one day have her own flower farm. She is also interested in a future career related to event floristry.
“I’m so fortunate to be a part of Tiger Garden and very thankful for all of the opportunities it has afforded me,” Anderson said. “These experiences have set me up so well for my future.”