From stethoscope to secateurs: a floral adventure

  • Lifestyle
  • June 5, 2015
Image: Isaac Cabezas
Image: Martina Gemmola

Here in the TOM office we all remember the moment we first saw Phil, he was hidden behind the biggest array of flowers we’d ever seen.

Later that day, standing in our kitchen in his khaki coloured overalls and wellington boots,
clipping the ends off bunches of David Austin Roses for an event in the building, the discussion turned from roses to medicine. This GP turned florist is a far more intriguing character than first meets the eye…

Tell us about your journey from being a doctor to florist. Are there any regrets, have you compromised anything?

I went to college in Boston and moved to NYC to work as a doctor at New York Presbyterian. But for a number of years over breaks I would fly to California to work on an organic urban flower farm. My love for flowers and growing them stemmed from this so the decision to leave medicine early this year wasn’t regretful. I do miss living in Manhattan and working with some of the best doctors in the world but that becomes a fleeting thought when I’m out in the country foraging and working with beautiful flowers!

My work is about…

Using the freshest flowers and having fun

I decided to become a florist because of…

One person, Katie Marx! My boss, friend, mentor is the reason why I made the final decision to pursue floristry. She’s constantly inspiring me and so much fun to around. Plus her baby Hazel is the cutest! But it’s the creation of beautiful arrangements and seeing how people positively react to flowers is always amazing to see. It’s also incredibly satisfying to be able to work with flowers at all stages from seeing them grow on farms, to the harvesting and then to see them used in events. Flowers also have the innate ability for people to connect memories to them. From whether a certain flower takes them back into their childhood in their grandpa’s garden, like me with dahlias, or their wedding day where it was used in their bouquet.

My favourite season is…

Spring by far. There’s nothing like walking through fields of wild spring flowers in the country or the abundance and beauty of cherry blossoms.

I’d spend my last dollar on…

Flower seeds or fritillaria imperialis bulbs

Where do you go for inspiration?

Gardens, nurseries, farms, the country, basically anywhere outdoors. Mother nature is always inspiring, whether its witnessing the will to grow from plants, color combinations in flowers or even after they’ve died and dried.

If I were a flower, I’d be a bunch of…

Sunflowers! They always make me smile.

Best flower for a winter date night?

Hellebores! I’m absolutely crazy for them especially the double hybrids.

What’s on my window sill in the kitchen?

Wheatgrass for juicing and a bouquet of Jude the obscure David Austin roses

What does a working day look like for you?

It varies from day to day but I’d say I spend the majority of my time in the country on farms, whether foraging, landscaping or digging holes for trees.

What book are you reading at the moment?

The Rose by Jennifer Potter and Modern Farmer magazine.

What does the world look like now through your eyes?

Much more natural and it’s beautiful and rewarding.

Phil: @afloralfrenzy

Photo of Phil courtesy of the lovely Megan Morton taken in the TOM office garden.

All photography courtesy of Martina Gemmola.