Our florist network here at FTD is unmatched, joining together characters from all walks of life. We partner with professionals nationwide, from grandiose event florists to basement betties who only work peak seasons. To showcase the artful designs and hard work behind our bouquets, we sat down with florists themselves to hear their stories. Today, we’re proud to showcase Jimmy Bason, owner and lead designer at Bird of Paradise Flowers in Philadephia, PA.
Very few aspiring florists grow up under landscapers or gardeners who can teach them the nuances of this hands-on job. Still, florists like Jimmy Bason find their love of gardening through the kindness of a welcoming community. Jimmy grew up in Pennsylvania, where he worked with his neighbors in their garden, asking questions and enjoying even the tedious, dirty aspects of tending a garden. “It is the birthplace of the US and a melting pot of culture. Philly has always done a good job of making people feel included.”
This newfound passion led him to the local flower shop, where he volunteered for any chore, quickly learning that floristry is not as glamorous as the picturesque storefront. Jimmy swept stem trimmings, often handled dirt, and took out a lot of trash, all with a smile. What mattered was the artistry and how that art made others feel loved. Wanting to graduate from store employee to store owner, Jimmy attended botany trade school on the fast-track to learning the business side of his artistic craft. After his apprenticeship, 2012 marked Bird of Paradise’s grand opening in Bristol, Pennsylvania. “The people here are some of the most amazing, multicultural, and accepting people I have ever met in my life,” Jimmy said. Since his first job as a teenager, he has been an FTD member as an entry-level employee and the store owner for over 20 years.
Flowers are often a family business, and while Jimmy didn’t inherit his shop from his parents, some of his own family members now work at Bird of Paradise alongside him. Jimmy’s husband, Jamie, is in and out of the shop, and their recently adopted son, Buddy, met the couple working informally for the shop as a young foster child. Buddy built a relationship with Jimmy, and his shop was a place he felt welcomed and safe over the years without a permanent home of his own. Once he aged out of the foster care system, Buddy had plans to join the circus until lockdown halted any possibility of soaring through flaming hoops. Luckily, Jimmy and Jamie immediately welcomed him back to their historic home in Bristol.
Jimmy, Jamie, and Buddy then decided to legally become a family by adopting Buddy even though he was 18. It made sense as the two were in the process of adopting another child, and they wanted the new son to have a brother because the formality of paperwork aside, Buddy was already a son to the couple. “Knowing Buddy from when he was 12, I would have loved to adopt him, and now all these years later, I can’t believe that it came to fruition!”
Now that Buddy was officially part of the family, they began adopting another child, a process that has significantly changed since the pandemic. The first step was to read through children’s profiles that outline their background, interests, hobbies, and generalized characteristics. Second, adoptive parents meet with social workers on behalf of the children. Jimmy spoke heavy when discussing this process; how could he look at all the profiles and choose a child next to nothing? What if he passed over the perfect child for their family because he liked baseball over basketball? Fortunately, the caseworker assigned to the couple quickly saw the potential compatibility of a 12-year-old named Marvin.
When Buddy met Marvin, Jimmy didn’t know what to expect. Neither had grown up with siblings, let alone a brother, and he worried they wouldn’t get along. To his delight, they did! “Everything Buddy was doing, Marvin wanted to do. It was so interesting that these boys never had it, but now that they’ve been given a family, they’re fully absorbing it, enjoying it, and it’s wonderful.” Jimmy also remarked how their collective gratitude makes the experience much sweeter because they’re beginning their family later in life and understand how precious it is. They’d also encourage anyone considering adopting to put in the effort and go for it. “It’s so rewarding, and there are so many children that need good homes. We all have good intentions and are good people who can offer a beautiful home and a loving situation.”
Jimmy is incredibly grateful for his growing family, reflecting that it was illegal for him and his husband to marry, let alone adopt, just a handful of years ago. Creating beautiful bouquets for Jamie on anniversaries and holidays is normal, but they’re the exception. Flowers have always traditionally been a gift from him to her; however, florists like Jimmy are challenging this tradition by asserting that flowers are for everyone. He partially attributes the social change to Pride celebrations every June, where people can interact with the LGBTQ+ community and humanize the movement. “It’s easier to break down stereotypes when you talk with these people and listen to their stories, slowly we realize that they just want to be happy like any of us do.”
“At the end of the day, you’re not giving flowers to a man, so why do you care? But it’s for those young kids who end up suffering so they can grow up knowing it’s normal to be who you are no matter what you are.”