Pat Phillips has owned The Flower Merchant for 32 years now, but grew his very first floral business literally from the ground up.
“We were poor,” he says, about his childhood in rural Arkansas. “Everyone had a garden, so I decided to sell the flowers from ours to make money.” After completing a mail-in correspondence course he found advertised in the back of a magazine, Pat was ready. At age 13, he did his first wedding, for one of his high school friends. “We drove around the countryside and stole roses, took them home, made arrangements and decorated the church.” He laughs, adding, “Now I pay for the flowers.”
Pat uses so much more than flowers now, too. He lists off just a few surprising items that he incorporates into his arrangements: fresh fruit, feathers, jewelry, LED lights… “I like to think we’re an alternative to the norm,” he says.
With over 40 years in the industry, Pat says he has done so many weddings that now many of the brides he created bouquets for in the past are bringing in their daughters for wedding planning. And because Pat finds inspiration everywhere and loves experimenting with trends, he stresses the importance it is for him to give a bride not just “a” wedding, but “HER” wedding.
What is your favorite flower: The Calla Lily. It’s even incorporated in the Flower Merchant’s logo. Pat loves the simplicity and elegance of the lily, and how a single stem can make a statement. But that doesn’t stop him from adding extras. “We put LED lights in the bouquet,” he says of a recent wedding. “The whole ballroom lit up.”
What is the most unique item you’ve used in a wedding arrangement? Pat says that old rules are out the window, and he loves combining tropical flowers with garden blossoms. He also adds that he’s done almost every wedding theme you can imagine…including a wedding for dogs.
Where do you find inspiration? Pat says he never stops looking for ideas, and as an active member of the prestigious American Institute of Floral Designers, he is able to stay connected with florists across the globe. The Color Institute and European trends also influence the way Pat puts his signature touch to a traditional concept.