Adrian Wilson and his 12-year-old business partner Shamar Wright can be found every Sunday at the City Market downtown, selling palmetto roses. In addition to the ubiquitous tourist must-have, some of their creations take the form of elaborate bouquets, heart-shaped wreaths, and lampshade decorations.
Wilson took Wright under his wing when he started the Palmetto Rose Company as a side business. The two met through an artisans society. Through this venture, the duo hopes to bridge the gap between Market Street and the young street vendors who commonly sell palmetto roses along the Holy City's streets and the Battery.
"Even at such a young age, Shamar's very focused and mature," Wilson says. "He now knows how to make bank deposits, transactions, take customer orders, stuff like that. That way, he gets a well-rounded training base for running this growing enterprise."
Three years ago, Wright's grandfather taught him how to make palmetto roses. "There's so much you can do with them," he says, "and I just like being able to learn how to run a business."
Wilson said it took him a year to learn how to make a "sellable" palmetto rose, but these days it takes him and Wright about a minute and a half to two minutes to create a single rose.
Though their sales peak during wedding and tourist seasons, Wilson says the cruise ships have helped strengthen business, and the company is also looking to expand to Hilton Head and other tourist hotspots.
As for how it's done, the duo explains it to us:
Materials • Young leaf frond from a palmetto tree • Rubber band
How to Make a Palmetto Rose
1. Strip four leaves from the spear ensuring that they remain connected at the base (the sturdiest part of the leaf). The strands should end approximately 12 inches from the base, which becomes the palmetto rose stem.
2. Lay the four leaves horizontally across both hands with your palms facing upward.
3. Take a leaf at one end and fold it at a 90-degree angle to the stem. Crease it with your fingers
4. Take the next leaf and fold it in the same direction at a 70-degree angle with the stem
5. Take the third leaf and fold it in the same direction at a 45-degree angle with the stem
6. Take the next leaf and fold it in the same direction at a 22-degree angle with the stem
7. Repeat steps 3-6, folding the leaves across the stem, maintaining 25 degrees of separation between the leaves throughout the flower. This gives the palmetto rose its circular shape.
8. Make sure to maintain a small hole in the center of the flower as you fold the leaves.
9. When you have about six inches left at the end of your leaves, flip your piece over and push the stem through the small hole in the center of the flower.
10. Hold the stem firmly in one hand, twisting the top of the flower with the other hand until you create the desired shape and form.
11. Wrap a rubber band around the stem, encompassing the ends of the leaves.