Katie Davis, the founder, creative spirit and lead floral designer behind Ponderosa & Thyme has lived a turbulent life. After a career change due to illness, she poured her heart into all-things-floral and founded Ponderosa & Thyme in 2013 in the beautiful state of Oregon. With the constant love and support of her husband and three children, Katie is leading a thriving business, always moving forward and expanding into new fields and ventures.
“Having experienced an illness that impacted your career and your lifestyle , where did you pull the strength from to become a floral designer and change your lifestyle ?“
I believe that there is a lot of strength in nature! Nature is such a good example of life, and the life-process that we all go through.The idea of a seed being planted in the dirt and being covered up usually without very much light at all became a really powerful metaphor for me when I first became really ill. I was in a place where I couldn’t do what I wanted to do anymore.
I thought about the process of death; being covered up and surrounded by darkness, and not being able to see my path or being able to know what was going to come next. I just knew that I was in this very dark place! And had to learn to trust that there would be some kind of light; that there would eventually be something good coming out of this place. It was in this dark place that I found my roots. There were good things happening that I didn’t see- couldn’t see- and eventually I found my way towards the light!
When I am in nature I see myself- I see the potential of what I can become! So being in nature when I was sick was a healing experience for me! Nature can be an incredible teacher to you if you let it.
"Before launching Ponderosa & Thyme in 2013 have you had any connection to Horticulture?"
Yes! When I was six we moved into my great grandmother’s house for a short season, and I spent a lot of time with her in her garden. My grandmother was a very practical gardener, and she loved to grow food. She also loved growing flowers. Her garden was my first real exposure to really thinking about how plants looked together.
She taught me how to weed and how to care for the plants that were growing. She also taught me how to harvest fruits and vegetables. Seeing the world through my grandmother’s eyes changed me; it was a practical view of life but also one that was constantly seeking beauty.
When I was a little bit older she moved in with us! That always felt very lucky because I didn’t know anybody who had their great grandmother living in their house, and I loved that! My dad made her some raised beds for the garden; she planted them that year, as well as some sugar snap peas along the fence. I remember eating those after they had been warmed by the sun. There is nothing better in the world than a warm sugar snap pea on an early summer morning.
By the end of the summer, I remember her garden beds overflowing with vegetables and marigolds and sunflowers! I also remember thinking that that’s the most beautiful thing I have ever seen in my life!
"What is the secret behind your thriving business?"
That is a funny question to me because I don’t know if there are any real secrets to it at all!
I would say that behind my business- as well as most businesses that are growing and thriving- there is a lot of hard work along with a lot of blood, sweat and tears. And as much as that sounds cliche, it’s also very true! There have been a lot of sleepless nights, a ton of prayers, and countless leaps of faith in places that are terrifying to take the leap to in my business.
I am a pretty open book when it comes to discussing what it takes to have a thriving business though! I just don’t know if there are any real secrets!
Being willing to take risks is also a big part of it. That and- paired with the thing I am only just now starting to talk about more is- the gift of intuition. I believe everybody is born with it, and that some people are naturally able to listen to it more easily. But I believe everybody has the ability to find their intuitive voice. I have been listening to my intuition since I was a little kid so the practice of listening to my intuition is ingrained into my very being! It has been a very natural thing to carry this intuition into my business, and the business decisions that I make.
I consider intuition to be like a good friend; it’s there when you need it, readily available, and always has some really smart answers waiting for you.
The partnership between intuition, hard work and the willingness to take some risks, is my recipe for success
"What has been the highlight in your floral career so far?"
I love that question, but it’s a hard one for me because there have been a lot of dreams that have come true in the last couple of years! Not just dreams that I had for my flower business but personal dreams, things that were hidden away in my heart. A lot of those things happened as a result of this beautiful business, which resulted in those dreams growing beyond what I ever imagined them becoming.
I will honestly say though, that the highlight dream for me- and the one that I think of immediately- is the flower class I taught on Columbia Road in London.
That particular class was unique because London was a place that we, my husband Mark and I, felt a calling to. We visited two years ago for the first time, came again to visit for my husband’s birthday in January, and then again in autumn. Every time we go we think to ourselves: “Yes, we are in love with this place.”
In many ways, teaching that class in London felt like a coming home experience for us. A promise that had come true. A little moment in our heart that we longed for our entire adult lives!
At one point in the class Mark pulled me aside, looked me in the eyes and said, “Katie, it’s happening. The thing that we have talked about our whole lives is happening.” It was actually kind of weird. We hadn't realized it until right then and there, but it was true! We were actually living out a joint longing of ours. There were a lot of tears for me that day, and even now when I think about it I feel the tears coming. It’s pretty emotional for me because dreams coming true is really not something you can take for granted. When I think about London in particular, I think more about the physical act of teaching in this magical place that we had always dreamed about doing a workshop in, than the actual teaching itself.
I had put aside the dream of being in London and teaching there; as much as we had hoped to go there it had simply never panned out. So we put it away.
Then all of a sudden we find ourselves in this beautiful intimate home on Columbia Road with a flower market below us, and a class of people who are on the same page as me and I realize:
“Oh my gosh I am here in the city of my heart, doing the thing I love doing the most in life.”
That has been the biggest highlight for me. I am not sure there is anything that can top this experience, to be honest.
"How does your style of floral design reflect yourself?"
I think that people’s floral arrangements are a reflection of the person creating them; they look like them, and act like them sometimes too. I believe the same is true for mine.
When I describe my floral arrangements I like to describe them as whimsical, earthy and a little quirky. I would describe myself the same way, though sometimes I think my designs are a better reflection of myself, showing the world the ways I long to be seen.
My work is definitely quirky, romantic, whimsical and funny! Often boundary pushing, and question asking! I like to do life this way, and I like my flowers to do the s.
"What is your favourite floral to use?"
I always say that every flower is my favourite, that the one I happen to be working with also happens to be the one I love the most. To me, it’s the same as asking who my favourite child is, but I could never choose! I love them all!
I definitely have favourites with each season though, such as Helleborus, Fritillaria, and so many others. If given the opportunity to work with any and all flowers, I would love them just the same. But if I absolutely had to pick I would choose old-fashioned Garden Roses because my middle name is Rose. My full name is Kathleen Rose Ellen! Roses have always been a part of me; I love everything about them. I even love their thorns, which make for a beautiful juxtaposition to their silky smelling petals!
Just don’t tell anyone! You're not allowed to have favourites when you're a flower mot
"What is our favourite technique for hand-tied bouquets?"
I think that creating a European hand-tied bouquet is foundational to a lot of other bouquet making techniques. It is a beginner’s tool but also one of my favourites; if you know the rules you can definitely grow from there, and sometimes even break them.
A European bouquet with the spiral stems is just one I enjoy making. It is fun, and an easy technique to add lots of extra unique pieces to it so it’s not just a simple, round bouquet. At the end of the day though, the technique I prefer using also depends on the flowers I’ve got available at the time.
I also learned to use oasis tape to bind all of my bridal bouquet work specifically, as it’s really not meant for long-term work. Binding an arrangement as I go- or in this case taping- definitely saves my hands, and is an important piece to my floral design work. You could even use twine for binding your flowers for a totally biodegradable bouquet.
"After having styled many florals for weddings and other events your focus lies now on teaching others and empowering them to reach for their dreams. How did this come about and what is the story behind these floral ventures?"
About three years ago I found myself with an incredibly full schedule brimming with weddings and events. By the end of the season I looked at all of the work I had done, and the emptiness I felt surprised me. Usually when I look at the work I’ve accomplished I feel really fulfilled because I love to work, and I love what I do. But something was missing.
That’s when I had to ask what else there was that might fulfill me. So I looked towards my past work experiences; I taught dance for years, changing the lives of my students through the power of movement. Then when I got sick I had to put teaching and dance aside, until flowers came along and I was doing all the things I wanted to do again. So I completely forgot about teaching.
Fast forward to the busy season where I had been left feeling empty, and I realized how much I loved teaching still. I wondered if and how I could transform my skills as a dance instructor into something completely different. It turns out that those years of teaching weren’t wasted after all! I had learned how to teach without words, and how to show things to my students without any verbal cues- both of which translated perfectly from teaching dance into teaching florals.
I can still remember the first class I ever taught. It was held in the front living room of my home. We set up some tables, and I even had a guide for how to teach a floral class that I wanted to try. I was really, really nervous because I didn’t know if it would work. Then I got up in front of everyone to teach how to make this arrangement and I just felt this knowing; in that moment I knew that I had what it takes to teach flowers, and that was a remarkable thing for me. All of the memories and abilities I had from teaching years prior came flooding back to me, and I knew I had everything that I needed in this moment to build off of.
I decided to launch another class later that year in the spring, and once it had passed I knew I really wanted to do a creative retreat that lasted longer; the one-day class just wasn’t enough time with my students. I saw people bond, and watched how their creativity started to take off and it was a beautiful thing. I decided to hold my first retreat that fall since I wanted more time with these artist to really explore that experience in depth. This was a huge leap of faith because I didn't really know what I was doing! But to my surprise the retreat sold out! I honestly felt that life just wanted me to take a big leap of faith, and people responded to that leap in remarkable ways. Even though they didn’t know what they were getting themselves into- and I was still learning how to do what my heart longed for- we had an incredible retreat.
This floral retreat taught me so much about spending time with people in a creative way, and the creative process in general. I have since been told by many attendees that it was life-changing for them.
And I know that it was for me as well. The first time you experience anything is always rather special. For me that retreat is one that I will always hold in my heart because it was the beginning of something really important in my life.
And now? We are doing workshops and retreats all over the world! This year is truly the year of teaching for me. I used to do 30-50 events a season, and now I am down to only one wedding while teaching full-time. It seems weird to only be doing one wedding, but my heart is full with teaching. It’s going to be a wild year, and I can’t wait to see how everything unfolds.
Honestly- every single workshop we do gets better and better, and I don’t know why that’s the case. But when you are doing the thing you're supposed to being doing, and when you're fulfilling your calling, magic things happen in your life and the lives of those around you. And that’s exactly how it is for me with teaching. In my world, that’s where the true magic lives.
If I can see other people exploding with creativity and finding the courage to take steps in their journey, I know I will have been living out my calling. The only thing I ever want is to be a part of that process! It’s one of the best feelings I could ever ask for in this life.
Once I discovered that florists, artists, and creatives in general were truly my people, I knew I didn’t need anything else but to teach and find myself in their presence more and more. I consider this incredible group of people to be family. I get life by loving them, and being loved by them.
No matter what my future is going to look like, I believe that teaching and empowering others is what I get to do for my community! And I am so honoured, grateful and blessed to do that. I truly hope I get to teach until the end of my life because teaching is who I am. And I am so thankful that nothing is wasted! My years of dancing, my years of pain. All of that has gone into my passion, and has shaped who I am and everything that I am currently do
"What advice would you give a young Horticulturist?"
I would say to love what you love, and love it well. Nurture that dream inside of you because it can turn into anything. You can grow what you want to grow, and be who you want to be. You can have the kind of garden that you desire or develop the kind of plant that you spend your time thinking about.
If you dream it you can do it! It’s a cliche but it’s true! In every field across the board. If you have it in your heart to do something you can do it!
"What is our dream for the coming few years?"
That’s a hard question for me because I’m in this weird place of doing exactly what I want to be doing at 35! So my dream for the coming few years is just more of what I'm already doing.
As a person, I want to learn to love people better; be more kind, more gentle, and more loving. I want to continue having a sustainable business and practice, and a life that I love living! One that blesses and makes a positive impact in the lives of others.
And that is The Dream. If I get to do that I will be happy to the end of my lif
And even though Katie experiences dark times, she kept on growing and thriving: empowering others by sharing her story and her art one day at a time.
If you want to know more about Katie and her Workshops you can find out more at:
And if you want glimpse of Katie's empowering teaching you can follow her on Instagram for florals, behind the scenes and her famous Floral-Live-Videos:
She is also sharing her art on:
Find out more about the Photographers capturing Katie´s Story:
Anne Blodgett: https://www.instagram.com/anneblodgettphotography/
Kim Branagan : https://www.instagram.com/kimbranaganphoto/
Hannah Mariel: https://www.instagram.com/marielhannah/