T.J. McGrath Ambassador, US.

T.J McGrath

Tell us about your work history.

I started taking notice of flowers when my dad retired and got into gardening. I was about 24 years old. I helped a lot in the early days – built him some raised planter beds and together we dug out a pond. 

I bought my first house a few years later and that’s when the real obsession with gardening took over. Let’s say it was a healthy habit to counteract some of the bad ones. It was until much later, in 2015 (ish) that I quit a full-time, well-paid job for a stab at flowers. I started part time in a retail boutique that sold more of everything else it stocked than the flowers, but the flowers were what I was interested in most. I had thought I would learn what I could and then see about going out on my own. 

I quickly learned the start-up costs for the shop I thought I might like to have were beyond my reach. So I dug in hard and I turned that part-time job into a full-time, lead designer position.

What kind of impact has COVID had on your own circumstances and work situation? 

A big one! Like so many, I lost my job during Covid. I started the job search, but quickly, with the support of my partner, realized it was time to believe in myself and do what I had set out to do when I took that first part-time position. That was to figure out my own business in flowers. 

I had knowledge (or so I thought), experience (50-plus hours most weeks for years) and passion. But I still didn’t have funds for those hefty start-up costs. So it had to be something I could start at home. I set out to build a nice weekly floral subscription business. I had lots of inquiries for freelance work, so I started doing that too. I had DMs and emails asking if I taught or offered workshops.  Though I never considered myself a teacher, I sold a workshop. And I realized I liked that a lot, so I booked a private one-to-one.  

So now I’m doing all those things, and I do small, private and corporate events from a small home studio. Oh … and now I have posters available, through a licensing agreement with a sustainably-minded printing company in Sweden.

What part of the job brings you the most joy? What inspired you to stick with it? 

The flowers give me all the joy and satisfaction and inspiration. I stick with it because I am the best version of myself when I am working with flowers. I feel at peace.


What have been your biggest work highlights to date? 

There are many, but, no lie, I fell off my chair when I got a DM from a florist/garden designer I had admired for many years asking if I’d be interested in co-hosting a creative workshop. I feel incredibly honoured to be asked to present or teach my approach to flowers.


What are your greatest strengths?  What do you struggle with? 

I struggle with every part of it that isn’t design related – accounting etc.

My husband would tell you I am charming, but I think my biggest strength is my ability to foresee potential problems and solve issues quickly when they arise.

I think my main impacts have been sharing my passion for local and seasonal flowers and helping florists find ways to move from floral foam to more sustainable mechanics. I know where I have made a difference simply through a willingness to share, inspire and help.

What are the biggest misconceptions about being a career florist? 

It’s easy, always fun and healthy. 

What concerns you most about the direction floristry/the industry is heading in? 

I think there is a lot of work to be done. It’s easy to feel like you’re winning the fight when you’re surrounded by like-minded people, but I fear the majority of florists are still uninformed when it comes to floristry’s impact on our planet


What do you respect in other florists? 

I look for problem solvers and open minds – or I will when I need to hire; right now in these early stages it’s me, myself and I).


What does sustainability mean to you in relation to your business practice? 

I’m not perfect, but I try to make improvements daily. My business is 100 percent foam free. My florals almost exclusively locally sourced or American-grown, then composted. I feel it’s one of the business’s missions to share what I learn and try to inspire others to learn more and take steps. Even little ones count!

What’s in your toolbox? 

  • A sense of humour 

  • A patient husband 

  • Hemp twine

  • Hair pin holders

  • Good shears 

  • Lots of vessels for water.