Creative and talented, two local women orchestrate do-it-yourself floral retreats for those looking to enrich their lives with beauty.
Two women sit on a porch on a warm spring day, a brief period of mutual rest in the midst of their impossibly busy lives. Their relationship is hard to define with one word: they have a friendly rapport, they often offer each other advice and a listening ear, and they work with one another. They are both wives and mothers, close enough in age, creative souls, longtime transplants to South Carolina, and live within a few miles of Summerville’s historic district. Their respective paths toward their eventual companionship are winding and occasionally intersected, with time periods of being aware of one another, being acquaintances, and working sporadically with one another peppering their journeys. Now, they sit together like old friends, recovering from the night before, where their work had them busy until the wee hours of the morning. They are exhausted, but as always, they are inspired. They talk about their children and the current events of their lives, and then seamlessly, Heidi Inabinet and Tina Zimmerman begin to discuss and plan their next event. With their talents combined, it is sure to be a great one.
It was inevitable that Heidi and Tina work together one day on a project all their own. Heidi is the owner of On a Limb Floral Studio in Summerville, and Tina is an event planner who previously served as Director of Tourism for the Summerville Chamber of Commerce. Many an event led Tina through the doors of Heidi’s shop, where she would fawn over the beautiful arrangements of the florist, which seemed to be more pieces of art than groupings of flowers in vessels. Moreover, Tina was attracted to the sheer talent of Heidi, who appeared to be able to effortlessly combine randoms bits of clipped foliage and create something any bride would be thrilled to carry on their wedding day, any host would be delighted to use as a centerpiece, and any individual would be ecstatic to have gracing their home, if only for a short time. As the pair got to know one another and Heidi worked at events planned by Tina, she came to understand the depth of Tina’s passion for bringing people together, the generosity of spirit she had for those around her, and the joy she received from a fête well-planned. Tina began to tell Heidi that she wanted to learn more about floral arranging. Heidi suggested that Tina find a florist whom she admired and request an internship opportunity. Then Heidi herself needed a bit of help with setting up events, and she recruited Tina for the task. They made a wonderful team, each having their own areas of expertise, and it was not long before a long-held idea, previously buried under the strata of life, began to float into the framework of Heidi’s consciousness once again. Two decades prior, she clipped a magazine article about floral retreats, envisioning a future where she could host an event brimming with flowers, conversation, and fun while she shared her knowledge of floral design. The idea took a backseat to everything else for twenty years, but once Heidi understood the value of Tina’s presence as event planner and hospitality guru, she knew it was time. They discussed it, and their joint venture into DIY floral retreats was born.
For a time, the pair labored over a name. Tina knew she wanted the word “Southern” in it, and Heidi knew she wanted something reminiscent of florals to tie it all together. Then Heidi found a passage in a daybook, “Simple Abundance” that spoke to her. She called Tina, who she knew owned the book, and told her to read the passage for October 12th. Tina, ever a believer in meaningful connections, was floored: October 12th was her birthdate, and the passage, focusing on the importance of time well spent, was absolutely perfect. They decided on “Southern Thyme,” and the message of that passage quickly began to serve as the ethos of their venture.
Around six times a year, the magic happens. Tina and Heidi choose a location first: a lush garden, a beachside retreat, a historically breathtaking property, setting the scene with a beautiful backdrop. Depending on the event and surrounding holidays, they may choose to make table arrangements, wreaths, or garlands with their class attendees, and Heidi sources her blooms and sprigs from all over the world in preparation, making sure to schedule them so they are as fresh as possible on the day of the retreat. Tina plans the menu, selecting cocktail and hors d’oeuvres recipes to perfectly complement the day at hand. They open up the reservation system on their website, and with an intimate, fifteen-person limit per event, the spaces fill up quickly. Then, the day arrives. After serving specialty cocktails, Tina shares their ethos with the guests, the one inspired by that “Simple Abundance” passage. She tells them that the ancient Greeks had two words for time: chronos and kairos. Chronos, she explains, was their word for chronological time: clocks and schedules and agendas: the time shared with the world. Kairos, on the other hand, is personal. It is the moment of time in which an event of significance happens, the chasm of space between seconds and minutes and hours that a person can immerse themselves in by slowing down and soaking in it, letting it consume them with no regard to the next moment or the moment after that; serenity at its best. Tina shares their hope that each guest will experience this feeling of kairos during their retreat, and with that, Heidi takes over, leading the attendees into a floral demonstration inspired by the theme, season, and surroundings. She shares her expertise generously, offering countless tips and tricks of her trade, and responds to every question with the wisdom of a woman whose life’s work revolves around this very subject. Then, it is time for hands-on design, and as the guests enjoy Tina’s hors d’oeuvres, they create. Heidi offers advice and consultation, but encourages individual expression, reminding attendees that arranging beauty with elements of beauty itself is not a task to be considered too deliberately, or focused on too harshly. As the day goes on, clusters of newfound friends form, talking and laughing as they immerse themselves in the experience. For a few hours, the world seems to stop turning, and time seems to stand still. They play with a bounty of nature, creating to their heart’s content. And then, when everyone has finished their respective arrangements, they head home with an armful of flowers, a few new friends, and, hopefully, a reminder to seek kairos and simply be, if only occasionally, but as much as possible. This is the hope Tina and Heidi hold for each person who attends their retreats.
It is a simple thing, really: an afternoon spent in leisure, but oftentimes the most simple elements of life are the ones first cast aside for the complicated. To be reminded, even guided, toward moments of simply being present with your fellow men and women is to be shepherded to a feeling of rejuvenation, a reconnection with a touch point, a journey on the way to being grounded once again. For Tina and Heidi, Southern Thyme is a vessel with which they can spread the elements of kairos with those in their community and in this endeavor, beauty abounds.
by Jana Riley