Barbara Leshyn starts her Floral Design II class lecture talking about rhythm, balance, and unity — concepts more closely associated with auditory pleasure, like the guitar riff of a favorite pop song.

Music is not far from the mark, however, when considering the way flowers have the ability to affect our moods depending on color, smell, and arrangement.

"Appreciating flowers is an innate human characteristic," said Leshyn, an advanced instructor in the horticulture department in the Virginia Tech College of  Agriculture and Life Sciences. "The smell and beauty of flowers draws us to them."

Her class is an elective, and students from various backgrounds enroll to supplement their training in horticulture or, pardon the pun, to stop and smell the flowers outside of their major.

Accounting major Abby Youmans, a senior from Winchester, Virginia, took the floral design class to engage the artistic side of her brain.

"In accounting there’s not a lot of room for creativity," said Youmans. "This class gives me a creative outlet."

Floral design classes are also part of the fabric of the Virginia Tech community. Anyone who has attended a public function at the university has most likely enjoyed floral bouquets made by students in floral design classes. In fall students put their creativity to the test by assembling pumpkin-themed arrangements. In spring the students produce arrangements that showcase spring flowers.

The biggest community initiative Leshyn coordinates is the two floral design classes available to residents in the New River Valley in the fall and spring.

On a smaller scale, Leshyn and her students also practice random acts of floral kindness by leaving arrangements on the doorsteps of professors, her childrens’ teachers, or sick friends.

"From the beginning of recorded history, people have been using flowers to express grief and joy," said Leshyn.

The other thing that draws us to flowers?  Unlike your favorite refrain in a pop song, you don’t have to know how to play the guitar to really appreciate them.

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