By Luke Voogt
Grant Collin’s flowery devotion began with floral art classes at just eight years of age.
“I don’t know why I did it,” he says.
“My parents were really keen gardeners so maybe that something to do with it.”
The man behind Pako florist Mr Collins started his 30-year career at age 11 with a part-time job at a flower shop in Tasmania.
“People (commented) it was quite strange for a young male to be involved in floristry,” he says.
“But in Europe pretty much all of the top florists are male so it’s quite normal (there).”
Mr Collins left high school in Year 10 and opened his first shop at age 16.
“I ended up with three shops in Tasmania – two in Launceston and one in Hobart.“
His floral artistry won him the Intaflora’s Victorian and Tasmanian Florist of the Year award four times and he was Australian runner-up twice.
Mr Collins would even go on to represent Australia at the Floristry World Cup in 2010.
He bought West City Florist in March 2016, renovating and renaming it as Mr Collins.
“It’s quite interesting to re-invent yourself in a new city, come here as an unknown and prove yourself,” he says.
The move was partly inspired by his Geelong heritage.
“Dad was from Geelong and moved to Tasmania when he met mum,” he says.
“Grandfather was a horse breeder and owned a property at Mt Moriac.”
Mr Collins recently began teaching at Gordon TAFE to pass on his decades of knowledge.
“It’s been great to give back and train up a whole new generation of florists,” he said.
He makes regular trips to learn the latest with master florists in Germany, the UK and USA.
“We tend to stay ahead of the general crop of florists,” he says.
Part of being the best in the industry is working with only the best stock, he says.
“Any inferior stock goes straight back.”
Indoor plants and cut flowers are all the rage during winter, Mr Collins says.
“People seem to snapping those up – they don’t have as much in their gardens in winter so they tend to buy more cut flowers.”
He ensures his cut flowers last as long as possible with a special hydration treatment.
“We’ve been getting feedback that ours last longer than other shops,” he says.
Mr Collin’s ornamental kale (not recommended for eating) is one of his quirkier products.
“People can’t quite work out what (it is),” he says. “They’re really decorative versions of the plant. It’s technically a flower so it makes sense for me to sell it.”
Mr Collins regularly creates arrangements for weddings or funeral caskets.
“Generally we’ll do them as flowers on the casket but some people have particular requests.”
He has created art from vegetables for lifetime gardeners or lichen covered logs and Australian wild flowers for keen bushwalkers.
“It’s a really personal last gift from the family,” he says.