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Blooming with Creativity
by Cody Moore, photography by Kayla Broadway

With more than 35 years of experience in the floral business, Louisiana native Jay Morris has brought his award-winning talents to Jonesboro, where he works as the head floral designer at Bennett’s Flowers.

Growing up in Monroe, La., Morris found himself interested in multiple aspects of the arts at a very young age.

“I was always interested in painting, drawing, sculpting, as well as playing piano,” said Morris. “During my junior year of high school, I was looking for a job as part of my school’s go to school half of the day, work half of the day program.

“My cousin owned a flower shop and was looking for afternoon delivery help. I went to work delivering flowers over 30 years ago. Though I was a delivery driver, I soon began to copy some of the more simple floral arrangements my cousin was doing. Slowly, I began trying to design on my own and realized I seemed to have a natural talent for working with flowers.”

After discovering his newfound passion, Morris took it upon himself to become a licensed florist and began working for a number of florists in the Monroe area. After years of working locally, he started to seek other opportunities that would allow him to grow within the floral business.

“After attending a florist convention in Jackson, Mississippi, I eventually decided that I needed to move to a larger city,” said Morris. “So, in the early ‘90s, I decided to move to Jackson.”

It was in Jackson that Morris’ floral career started to take shape and blossom. There, Morris was able to be a part of a large florist association, giving him the chance to work with some of the most talented people in the floral industry. At that time, he also began to compete professionally in floral competitions.

“In 1997, I won my first big award, Mississippi Designer of the Year,” said Morris. “Upon winning the state title, I was invited to compete in the Southern Retail Florist Association Designer of the Year Competition. This competition invites the designer of year contestants from every state to vie for the Southern Retail Title.

“My first time competing in 1998, I won the national title. Although there have since been others, this award is the one I’m most proud of.”

Following his first national title, Morris took it upon himself to become a Floral Education Ambassador. This experience allowed him to travel to southern states and present floral seminars and stage shows. After years of traveling and competing professionally, Morris decided to move back to his hometown and open his own floral shop, A Floral Affair, in 2001.

“From early on in my career, I dreamt of owning my own business,” said Morris. “But, after six years or so, it was time to move on. I loved the idea of having my own business, but the business end was not my forte. I closed the shop and moved back to Mississippi to my floral family to do the one thing I loved, designing floral arrangements.”

In 2007, Morris got word that the National Floral Competition would be held in Hot Springs in conjunction with an annual floral convention.
“The Mid-America Cup Designer of the Year Competition invites the state winners from all states to compete for the national title,” said Morris. “So, in 2007, I entered and won the Mississippi Designer of the Year and went on to win the 2008 Mid-America Cup.”

Morris returned to the same competition in 2011, winning that year’s Mid-America title once again. He has plans to return to the same competition in coming years, only this time representing Arkansas.

“Arkansas has always been a big part of my life,” said Morris. “My earliest memories of going on a family vacation were a trip to Hot Springs Village to the Mid-America Museum and Magic Springs. Many more trips followed to Petit Jean, Eureka Springs, the Cossatot River, the Ozark School, and every trip built upon my love for Arkansas.”

Though Morris had wanted to move to Arkansas for some time, the timing never felt right for him.

“After attending the 2018 Arkansas Convention in Hot Springs, a number of people approached me about moving to Arkansas,” said Morris. “I again hesitated, but realized that if I put it off again, it would never happen.”

Through mutual friends, Morris got the chance to meet the owner of Bennett’s Flowers of Jonesboro, Jan Bennett Arant, and the rest was history.

“I was in a board meeting with the top florists from across the state, and I was in need of a designer,” said Arant. “I then asked if anyone knew a good designer that was looking for a job. Jay’s name was brought up, and I was told that he wanted to move to Arkansas, though he was working in Mississippi at the time.

“It was kind of like a blind date. He came to Jonesboro, and we met and talked about what we both needed. Before I knew it, he started the process to move to Jonesboro to work for me.”

“Working at Bennett’s has been hard work but also so much fun,” said Morris. “I came to work at Bennett’s in mid-October, just beginning the busy season for the shop. It is truly a joy to do something you love for a living, with the icing on the cake being that I’m able to work with people I truly like and have come to care about.”

Since accepting the position at Bennett’s Flowers, Morris has had the opportunity to express himself creatively each day. Though putting floral arrangements together may seem like an easy job to some, Morris says it’s more work than the public may think.

“It is hard work,” said Morris. “We like to say that we wish everyone could work just one Valentine’s Day or Mother’s Day in a flower shop.

“For those who have, it convinces them that it is not something that they want to do full time. It takes a certain type of crazy to want to work over 60 hours a week, selling a perishable product, competing with every grocery store, struggling through every summer and abandoning your family through every holiday, all to try and make a living selling what is considered a luxury item. It’s a hard business, but it is all I have ever done and all I ever want to do.”

A typical day in the life of a floral designer includes waking up early, making sure there are enough flowers for the day, checking online orders, waiting on customers and, of course, getting to design an array of unique floral arrangements.

“There are many types of floral arrangements,” said Morris. “The main breakdown being permanent botanicals, silks and fresh flowers. In each of those categories, there are as many styles as there are flowers themselves. I enjoy using tropical flowers, creating a very dramatic, contemporary, unique design.”

When it comes to the most popular designs sold at Bennett’s Flowers, a mounded look with the flowers loosely bound and cut fairly short in relation to the container seems the most commonly ordered design.

“These type of arrangements last longer than some of the more long-stemmed, airy looks because the flowers are closer to the water source,” said Morris. “Also, the just-picked or garden style is another popular style option.”

“Jay has been a great fit for my shop,” said Arant. “He has always been in the floral industry, and flowers are his passion. He is a national award-winning florist three times over, and he brings that winning attitude and talent to my shop daily. The designs he creates are always beautiful, unique and stylish.”

Though Morris has worked in many floral shops and has won several awards for his artistic abilities, nothing makes him feel more accomplished than making someone’s day a little brighter with one of his beautiful floral arrangements.

“I love my job because it allows me to be artistic, use my learned skills and a God-given talent to create beautiful floral designs,” said Morris. I fell in love with being a designer when I realized I could spend my life making people happy. From the birth of a child, to birthdays, get-wells, anniversaries, proms, weddings, retirements and everything in between, I get to create something for every occasion that touch people’s hearts, makes them smile and feel loved. How could I not love my job?”

Bennett’s Flowers is located at 612 Southwest Drive and is open Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. To keep up with Morris’ latest floral creations, find Bennett’s Flowers on Facebook or call (870) 203-9844.