One of the things I love about fresh flowers, is that they are both constantly changing as the blooms mature and they are perishable, making room for a new beautiful thing.
Althea Wiles

Althea Wiles

Owner / Head Designer

Location: Fayetteville, AR

Rose of Sharon is an event-focused floral studio. While we design for all events of any size, from single birthday arrangements to full scale events with 300+ guests, our passion is for weddings. For 22 years, we have been known for listening to our clients, for exceeding expectations, and making the whole wedding planning process easier. Our clients consistently say that we are the one vendor that made the planning process less stressful and that our flowers were even more beautiful than they expected.

Four years of work in traditional floral shops made me realize that I really enjoyed event work most of all. The local shops were all general florists, with gifts, houseplants, daily delivery and the like. I decided to start my own business where I could focus on weddings and other events. In April of 1998, the Rose of Sharon opened. I designed four weddings that year. Now, we average between 75 and 100 weddings and events each year.

  • AMF (Arkansas Master Florist)
  • PCF (Professional Certified Florist)

How long have you been a florist? What inspired you to become a florist?

I’ve been a florist for over 27 years, designing arrangements, creating beautiful bouquets and working with wonderful flowers; I can’t imagine doing anything else! I can’t remember a time when flowers weren’t a part of my life. Starting with my name–‘Rose of Sharon’ is the common name for the Althea, a flowering shrub. (My favorite Rose of Sharon variety is the pure white ‘Diana’ but our logo is based on the ‘Aphrodite’ lavender Rose of Sharon.)

Growing up, my parents owned a wholesale nursery and they grew quite a few of the plants themselves. During the summers, I would raid the day lily beds. Of course, day lilies really do only last one day, so I had to make a new arrangement every day. One of the things I love about fresh flowers, is that they are both constantly changing as the blooms mature and they are perishable, making room for a new beautiful thing.

What are your favorite flowers/greenery to work with?

It changes. Right now, I adore carnations. They are such an under-appreciated flower and come in a wide range of colors! And classic yellow daffodils will always be close to my heart.
Italian Ruscus is probably my favorite go-to greenery.

What type of arrangements would you suggest for an event with a tight floral budget?

Hydrangeas with greenery accents! Hydrangeas are easy to work with and take up a lot of space so even though they might be more per stem than some other flowers, you need fewer of them. They always make an impact.

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve ever faced while preparing florals for an event?

The list of ‘learning experiences’ is long after 20+ years…

  • flooding (I almost didn’t make it to the shop to get the flowers for a wedding)
  • winter storms (in Arkansas, it just takes a little snow or ice to shut everything down)
  • being sent to the wrong church and not finding out until I was almost finished decorating (I had to take it all down, get to the correct church & set up again)
  • being given the wrong date (the client told me Saturday, wedding was on Friday…she didn’t catch that even after 7 revisions with the date listed on each one)
  • intoxicated relatives of the wedding party
  • intoxicated groomsmen
  • wind (for an outdoor reception)
  • wedding called off on the wedding day
  • flowers that wouldn’t open
  • flowers that were the wrong color
  • COVID (of course)

But the biggest challenge was a large wedding we designed where the location was too far to commute to. We packed up everything needed (from buckets to vases to knives to snacks), set up a temporary shop & stayed on site for a week to get it done. To keep organized, I had daily schedules for 8 team members. Everything was scheduled…and it went off without a hitch!

What’s the most exciting thing on the horizon for you personally or professionally?

While I still love working with flowers, I’m moving towards consulting and education for new florists. I had the benefit of a wonderful mentor when I first started and I enjoy sharing all the tidbits I’ve learned over the years, especially the business side of owning and running a small studio. We’re working on classes about pricing, how to plan and order wedding flowers, and how to stay profitable. We’ll also be offering one-on-one consulting for the florist who needs general support.

What are some things you wished you knew before starting your business?

I wish I understood just how physically hard this job is!

What is the most unique location that you’ve been asked to dress up with florals?

A cave! We were hired to decorate for a micro-wedding in a cave that had been turned into a bed & breakfast. Unfortunately this was before digital cameras and I don’t have any photos!

Where do you find ideas for your floral designs?

From the flowers themselves. I believe that floral design should enhance the beauty of nature, not change it or force it into submission. While I might have a general idea about the design, the shape, movement and attitude of the flowers themselves will determine my final arrangement.

Anything else you’d like to comment on while we have you?

Working with flowers is harder than expected but it’s such a worthwhile career. Everyone enjoys getting flowers. And where else to you get to bring so many smiles to so many people day in and day out?

Althea Wiles
Author: Althea Wiles

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