PHILADELPHIA, Miss. (AP) — Young Philadelphia florist Madden Gray started working in floral arrangements when he was just 15 and this month found himself decorating the Mississippi Governor’s Mansion.
Gray, 22, who owns and operates MG & Company, a gifts, home, floral and design store on the square in Philadelphia, put in an application after one of his customers sent him an email in late February with information about Mississippi First Lady Elee Reeves’ Florist of the Month program.
On the first Monday of April, Gray was decorating the Mansion with floral arrangements in five rooms.
Gray said he is honored to be chosen for the program that was instituted by the First Lady after she and Gov. Tate Reeves moved into the mansion.
Gray said he was not intimidated by the prospect of providing the flower arrangements for five rooms each week of April.
“It was neat though,” Gray said of learning he had been chosen. “I was like, ‘Oh my word!’ It is just such an honor to do.”
Gray started working in floral arrangement approximately seven years ago.
“I am just kind of self-taught really,” Gray said. “I go online just looking at videos and that type of thing. Trial and error.”
Gray fell into the business through his parents, Wes and Melissa Gray, who had a restaurant called Pete and Kate’s in Stallo that had a gift shop in one corner.
“When that closed, I had to have something to do with the gifts, so I started opening little booths everywhere,” Gray said. “That just kind of got that started and that led up to storefront.”
Gray then operated a gift booth in a florist shop in Philadelphia before he opened his own shop MG & Company.
Since then, MG & Company has been featured in Mississippi Magazine having been voted best home decor store in 2018 and 2019 and having been featured in the magazine’s M List numerous times.
MG opened a second location in Louisville last October.
As for decorating the governor’s mansion, Gray said, “It was so fun. I loved it.”
For preparation, Gray said the Mansion staff sent him specifications for the space for which he is providing floral arrangements.
“They sent me container sizes and all the measurements and pictures of what I was supposed to be doing,” Gray said.
“I got prepped with all my designs and figured out what kind of flowers I was going to be using, color schemes every week, how we were going to change it out and make it different every week.”
Gray said he is especially honored to be the florist of the month for April because this is the first month the Mansion has been opened for tourists since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020.
Gray is responsible for floral arrangements in the foyer, two restrooms, the first lady’s office and a sitting room.
“The foyer arrangement is like a large arrangement for where everybody walks in,” Gray said. “They all kind of match in some way. I like that.”
As the weeks go on, however, Gray said he will mix it up.
“They will be a little bit different,” Gray said of the week-to-week arrangements.
“This week we used hydrangeas and after Easter just kind of pastel this week. Then when we get toward the end of April we will do more summery bright. One week we are going to do all white and green magnolias. That is kind of like our signature look. All white and green.”
Ann Beard, chief of staff for First Lady Reeves, said the first lady instituted the Florist of the Month program to give a variety of the state’s florists a chance to provide arrangements for the mansion while in the past first ladies had only one florist through the term.
“The First Lady thought it would be a good idea to be a florist for the month,” Beard said, adding the florists get a budget from which to work for their designated month. “It is a nice perk for them to get a little bit of free publicity. We post to Instagram and Facebook.”
The program is open to any florist in the state.
“It has been really well received,” Beard said. “We’ve had florists from Vicksburg, Meridian and throughout the state. Contact me and I’ll get you set up.”
Beard said she and the first lady are pleased with Gray’s early work.
“I think they are beautiful,” Beard said of the arrangements. “I enjoyed meeting him. He has done a great job, and I look forward to what he might come up with next.”
Gray said he is excited by the opportunity.
“It is an honor to be able to do that at the mansion,” Gray said. “For everybody to see your design — the tours started back April 1. For everybody to see those, to be able to make something special every week for them, it is an honor to be able to do that.”
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