With a true florist instinct for great design and insight into what each stem can bring to a floral arrangement, TJ McGrath continues to make show-stopping designs, as his experience in the industry has grown immensely. His designs are a playful approach to the classic designs in floral design. Being a sustainable New Jersey florist who adores flowers and giving seasonal local workshops, get to know TJ McGrath in this edition of the florist special.
TJ McGrath - Sharing Sustainable Floral Design
TJ’s design philosophy when working with flowers is pretty simple: there are no real rules in nature, so there are no restrictions or rules in his designs. He strives every day to push beyond his boundaries and to create one-of-a-kind designs that feel modern, whimsical, and fresh. TJ is reaching beyond what he's done thus far to discover engaging new shapes, color palettes, and foraged organics to design with, using advanced floral foam-free mechanics because he's yearning to increase positive sustainable practices in his floral design techniques.
After graduating from Rutgers University with a BA in Literature and Philosophy, his original path in life did not have anything to do with flowers but rather had a long and storied journey through advertising, marketing, tech, and retail. He says storied, meaning he has lots of stories, not as in overly 'glamorous', though there certainly were some exciting and memorable brushes with some pretty interesting characters, some more famous than others he says.
After years of working his magic around flowers in his own business, TJ McGrath Design, slowly but surely he knew he wanted to become a more sustainable florist to show the world what things and designs are possible.
Sustainable floristry is the goal and focus of TJ's home-based studio, and he offers clients colorful, artistic designs that, during the growing season in NJ, feature exclusively local and American-grown flowers. The floral designer has crafted and created several types of workshops, including 1:1 private lessons and demos/lectures that also feature seasonal, local, and American-grown flowers where he focuses on exploring floral design from a seasonal and artistic expression.
The idea of sustainability is rather new to him, like it is to the rest of the world. He likes to approach teaching sustainable floral design practices from the perspective that he's simply sharing what he is learning as he goes and hoping it will inspire others to be kinder to the world.
TJ simply acclaims:
"Change needs to start somewhere, no?"
Sharing His Love for Flowers Through His Own Business
The floral industry flies under the radar in the consumer's mind when it comes to thinking about the environment. TJ McGrath learned firsthand that there is a huge impact globally, and with today's climate crisis in mind, he was 100% sure he wanted to set out to build a business focused on better ways of sharing his passion and deep love for flowers.
In a couple of years, his studio has grown in ways he could never have imagined. TJ nowadays offers educational resources and access to florists and flower enthusiasts worldwide through workshops that focus on foam-free design techniques and feature primarily locally grown flowers. TJ wants people out there who are thinking about becoming florists to just do it!
Through insightful workshops and education, he says you can achieve anything you desire as a florist or even as a beginner wanting to get involved in the industry. He often works alongside some of the most amazing and influential industry leaders and designers with a mindful approach to sustainability in the cut flower industry.
Up next? Traveling for workshops internationally? For him, it's an absolute YES! Not only that, but TJ has turned into a flower farmer/designer himself via 'The Sustainable Flowers Project Garden' at Jardin de Buis, a small cutting garden with big dreams of becoming an educational and growing opportunity for many. These organically grown flowers are primarily featured in his client's designs and event works, and sometimes are available to other designers for wholesale purchase.
How Is the Floral Business in New Jersey in Terms of Creativity, Access to Flowers, Interesting Projects, etc.?
TJ McGrath gives his point of view about the floral industry in New Jersey, his hometown.
"New Jersey is the Garden State, which if you’re simply seeing it from the airplane window at Newark Liberty, you wouldn’t know that to be true. During the field farming season, we have access to amazing local products and we try to support our local farmers as much as we can. We also have access to the NYC 28th Street market with Manhattan being only a 30-minute car ride (without traffic, but there is always traffic-- our best 'clocked' time during the morning rush is 49 minutes, however, it's best to allow at least an hour and ten). Overall I think our access to flowers is pretty stellar and I try not to be jealous of what others can get their hands on; we certainly subscribe to the philosophy 'the grass isn’t always greener' and embrace what we can get.
In general, I would say the flower business in NJ is great. It can be a bit competitive, but we’re in a densely populated region and the client base seems to understand that flowers are a luxury and that you get what you pay for. Social Media has really helped us to grow the business and get us in front of a clientele that appreciates and sees beauty in our design approach. Everyone behind my team is incredibly appreciative of the fact that most of our clients, whether they’re working with us for their wedding, or sending a thank you bouquet, reach out to us for our creativity; so we get to put our creativity to use every day, with every wedding or event."
Where and When Did TJ McGrath's Passion for Flowers Start?
From what he can remember, TJ McGrath didn’t grow up with a lot of flowers or a garden in the yard. His mother did plant tulips and hyacinth bulbs, not a surprising thing to hear from a woman who dusted her way from her bed to the tea kettle every morning. McGrath is one of nine kids, so he's pretty sure his parents had their hands full and when it came to gardening, really concerned themselves mostly with making sure the yard was tidy. It wasn’t really until TJ had a place of my own, a small apartment with a small terrace that he started to take notice of flowers, hanging baskets, and potted flowers.
Around that, same time, TJ's father retired, and he did take to gardening soon thereafter there was a pond and garden beds in the yard where he used to have a pool. McGrath would spend time helping him with his garden and at 29, when he bought my first house, he had what he would say was a healthy interest in gardening. While in that house, he had an artist neighbor who was in his opinion, a master gardener. They both became great friends and through their friendship, his passion for gardening grew much stronger.
"I love visiting the garden center during the spring and almost always find myself overspending my gardening budget in the first few visits. I think my failures as a gardener are what have pushed me to be a better floral designer. I feel like with each arrangement I have an opportunity to create a harmony with the flowers that I feel lacks in my garden."
To learn more about this lovely floral designer and the spectacular work he creates, visit his Instagram.