Canaan Marshall’s career has gone from budding to blooming, and he’s not slowing down anytime soon. The 2014 graduate from Mercer University’s College of Professional Advancement is a successful floral designer whose work recently took him to New York, Los Angeles and Colombia — and that was just over a two-week period.
With his business Canaan Marshall Designs, he creates floral arrangements for weddings, events, festivals and private homes across the country. The Macon native, who now shares a home base with Atlanta, has also been leading floral workshops at botanical gardens and estates.
“In a million years, I would not have thought I would be a florist,” he said. “I don’t have a blueprint, but I do have points and stages in my life that I want to meet. It’s just things I love, and it makes one big greenhouse. It all comes together to make a big picture for me, and I’m grateful for that. Being a florist really pushed me outside my comfort zone and made me more adaptable to change. I love what I do.”
Marshall showed off his floral skills as a contestant on HBO Max’s “Full Bloom” in the summer of 2021, which led to another television opportunity in California earlier this year. He was asked to do flowers for the staircase and entryway of a Beverly Hills mansion where “The Bachelorette” was being filmed. He said more TV networks have been pitching projects to him.
Marshall was one of five U.S. florists invited to visit a leading flower farm in Bogotá, Colombia, in February. During the trip, he gained insight into the company’s rose business and how it grows, packages and ships the flowers.
“I don’t know what tomorrow brings, but I know that today I am very grateful for all the different opportunities. That’s how I live my life,” he said.
Another recent project caught the attention of Vogue and marthastewart.com, which published photos of an arrangement with 500 orchids that he created for the New York Botanical Garden at The Plaza Hotel.
Marshall has made the pages of Southern Living multiple times, including twice in 2022. The magazine featured three Christmas arrangements by Marshall and his floral work for the dining room of the historic Aiken-Rhett House for the Illumination Charleston celebration. Southern Living later asked him to return to Charleston, South Carolina, to lead a flower class. In addition, he did flowers for a bedroom and tablescape for the November issue of Flower Magazine.
While he travels outside Georgia often, Marshall also takes on jobs in his home state whenever he can. He loves working on big events, especially the Cherry Blossom Festival Gala in Macon. He’s been the florist for the event, which draws 800-1,000 attendees, for several years. Fashion was the theme for the 2023 gala, held on March 17, so Marshall adorned giant cutouts of model silhouettes with flowers.
“I’m always trying to push the envelope,” said Marshall, who is into raspberry pink designs and spray-painted palm leaves at the moment. “I never really slow down, but spring is very busy for me. When we do the Cherry Blossom Gala, that’s like my big kickoff (to spring). It brings me back home, and I really enjoy doing it for my community.”
In Atlanta, he often works with the Shops of Buckhead, and this will be his second year participating in Buckhead Village’s Bodacious Blooms festival.
Although his work keeps him constantly on the move, he has been taking some time lately to think about the people, places and events that got him to where he is today. He comes from a working class family and paid his own way through Mercer, and his education and life experiences have given him the tools to make his business a success.
“I have a host of people around me that keeps me in my place,” Marshall said. “I think that’s part of the South. It’s a whole community of people that I love, and they love me. I was raised by my grandmother and my mom, and they instilled in me to be humble and gracious and have a big heart.”
That mindset and upbringing have kept Marshall grounded and helped him share a more accessible approach to flowers. He thinks everyone should have flowers in their home or yard because they bring joy. Marshall said they don’t need to cost a lot, and it doesn’t matter how they are put together. He urges people to not overthink flower arrangements and to remember that just the act of giving flowers can mean so much to people.
“Place them and move on. We’re not having surgery here. We’re making beauty,” Marshall said. “Flowers are here on the Earth to be able to enjoy. You can smell them, cut them and utilize them in your home. You should always have flowers, and it always makes people happy. It brings a smile to people’s faces.”