Saturday, October 30, 2004

Starting Christmas Silk Arrangements

Thursday October 28th....first glitter on my face this year! LOL

(No, I don't euphorically throw glitter in the air! I have a fan on my worktable, aimed at my face, because it's in a too-warm area of the store, ok?)

Thursday, October 28, 2004

The Ever Optimistic Florist

Ahh, it's time for the Christmas and Wedding Design Shows at your local wholesale houses. Don't you WISH there was some way to tell in advance if it was worth your time to attend?
In the last 35 years, I've been to...let's see.....maybe one a year. Of those, I'd say only five were outstanding shows, where I couldn't wait to get back to the shop to try something I'd just learned. FIVE.
Another ten or so were "not bad".
Most shows, however, were duds.

Now, isn't that pathetic?

Yes, I usually find something I can use at any show, and it's good to connect with other florists from the area. Since we "outstate" florists rarely get to cruise the wholesale houses, even that's fun. Then, sometimes a new product catches my interest, or a new way to use something familiar--and it's enough to get me revved again.

A design show is so much work for the wholesalers! It's their big chance to impress us with their outstanding products and services, their great sales people, their extensive coolers and their new fresh possibilities.
Good grief, they even put flower arrangements in the restrooms at the show, so why, why, WHY do we ever end up with an uninspiring, droning presenter?!

Sheesh, stop me before I talk myself out of going next week.....LOL

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

What do flowers mean?

A thirty-something guy walked up to the counter this morning with a worried look on his face and a six-pack of peach roses in his hand.

I said, "Whew! You look worried!" (...always state the obvious...)

He flashed a goofy smile and said, "Um, yeah...ah, what do peach roses mean?"

I could have given him the standard answer about the Victorian origins of 'flower-talk', how peach was developed after that era, how red, pink, white and yellow have 'meanings'....but I was feeling frisky, again...

I paused for a little florist-drama and said, "How come you thought about buying flowers this morning, hmm? Are you feeling especially good today....or are you just being a 'nice guy'?"
(I love it when they blush and admit.....nice-guy-ness...)

To most American men, red roses mean 'love', and they know she's aware of it, too. But, does it follow that another color means anything less?

Between us, we decided that peach could mean

  • "I saw the color of these flowers and thought of you"...OR
  • "Peach roses remind me of the color of your blush "...OR
  • "I wanted to give you some special flowers because you're so special to me"....OR
  • "You delight me as much as these flowers do!"...or just
  • "Hey, they were pretty, ok?"

A gift of flowers conveys something that no other gift does. What else says 'ahem' like flowers?

(Think about why people send flowers. Someone's sick or sad...someone's celebrating....or retiring....there's a new baby....a birthday.....a new home....congratulations....I'm thinking about have my mean so much to me...I love you.

Can chocolate say it half as well? )

Sunday, October 24, 2004

The Small Shop mindset

No, I'm not 'down' on small shops, but re-reading what I wrote last night makes me think about it again.

The LS I worked for was not a freestanding shop. It was in a mall of about 120 stores, a 'regional shopping hub'. During the tenure of the last owners, we carried an odd and eclectic mix of merchandise--primitive furniture one of the owners built in his spare time, antiques, cheapie collectibles, dolls, statues-- among the silk and fresh arrangements. And, we tried most of the marketing tips that came down the pike: cash and carry bunches, fresh flowers displayed out of the cooler, buy-one-get-one, even "Happy Hour" sales; we did wedding shows; we sent out brochures to prospective clients; we did balloon sculptures and candy baskets; we participated in the Christmas house and the local Women's Showcase and the Heart Walk and the Chamber of Commerce's Business After Hours....but the business folded anyway.

As I think about reasons now, I know higher rent in a larger space affected them tremendously, and more competition hurt.....but I think the MAIN reason, the bottom line reason, was this:
We (and many other little shop florists) worked from a mind-set of frugality and scarcity.
Sure, we here in Minnesota get frugality with our mother's milk, so it's extra-hard for us to think with a sense of bounty and joyful abundance, but that's what flowers should be....a skimpy arrangement is just sad.

OK, you what's the solution? Sheesh, not everyone can work in the 'joyful abundance' of a grocery store floral department! What's a little shop supposed to do, here?

I say, IT IS AN ATTITUDE that defeats a little shop. Stuff wasn't scarce, we just didn't think we could charge for our creativity or for those extra stems. So, we used less and made less profit....then we bought less, then painted that old vase instead of.....
The shop had a sense of scarcity and making-do that was evident as you walked through the door. That's partly why they folded, and it's also why I enjoy working where I do now.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Both sides of the fence

I'm struck most days by the contrast between the Little Shop (LS) and the Grocery Store (GS) where I work now:
In the LS, schmoozing customers was a given, as each one was precious to the business. Still, sometimes they would just go away, and we never knew why. Corporate accounts fizzled, and we didn't persue them. We did lots of crafty putzing and few large-scale arrangements. Why?

In the GS, there are plenty of customers, with many more expectations than in the LS. If a flower wilts within three days, we replace it; if there's an arrangement in the cooler overnight that isn't perfect, we hear about it the next day; we do weddings, funerals, gift baskets, balloons, proms, in-store promotions and a full range of charity fact, the community believes that the GS can afford almost any donation they ask for, and they ask almost daily. (Fourty-five $10 arrangements for a charity ball at the Radisson? What's wrong with this picture? But, of course......we do them.)

And, because we're large-scale compared to the local LS's, we often supply those little shops. Need 17 yellow roses right away? We usually have them, and can spare them. Need enough tropicals for one arrangement? Check the GS first....(though probably at night). Those Cash'N'Carry bunches are amazing!

In the LS, wholesalers delivered product twice a week; in the GS, we get fresh product 6 out of 7 days, so we're constantly processing flowers.

Mother's Day at the LS? Oh, man, we did 70 dozens!
Mother's Day at the GS? Oh, man, I did 70 dozens before lunch!

Valentines Day at the GS? We do dozens, half-dozens, and three other basic mixed-flower designs....and guess what? Customers never notice the lack of variety.

In the LS, every Valentine order was "to order", because we never thought about it any other way.

An interesting sidelight to all this--when I attend design shows, I try not to disclose where I work, just to spare myself LS animosity. But surely there's room for both of us in the market place--we DO what they CAN'T.

Me, in the little shop, a few years ago. Posted by Hello

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Burgandy and Orange

My precious daughter is getting married in July, 05 and has chosen bright orange for her bridesmaids dresses. Yes, I know. This from the daughter who wore black for most of her high school and college career. And now, she says orange has 'always' been her favorite color. Who knew?

As the florist & mother of the bride, my mind went immediately to possibilities: brights? shades? mixtures? contrast? (Whew, orange?!)

And, of course, she has opinions about this, too. Somewhere along the line, she discovered the burgandy/orange/tan combination and loves it.

Well, with all the new shades of fresh flowers these days, I've been experimenting in the shop with fresh and with silk.
Black Baccara roses and orange lilys.
Burgandy gerberas and orange roses.
Peach and dark red hypericum in a tiny vase with a few tannish-peachy sweethearts.
(Viburnum appeals to me, and queen-ann's-lace, and kermit mums, too. Add them to the mix!)
A really rusty leonidas rose, a velvet merlot and an orange, burgandy hypericum and a little dusty blue limonium with a few kermits...oh, my....I've lost the color scheme!
This ought to be a really exciting year for me.....son called a few weeks ago and said he's getting married in May!
(Think I can beg off for Mother's Day week?)

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Time to make grapevine wreaths....

Here in Minnesota, the woods are full of wild grapes. (Northern kudzu, more or less). And NOW is when a day in the woods is most rewarding--it's cool, the bugs are mostly gone and the air is refreshing, the fallen leaves are crunchy underfoot and rose-hips glow red in the underbrush. Wow...check that dried 'roadsideia'!

AND there's nothing like free wreaths, huh?

I watch for grapes all summer as I drive around the area. Ask the land-owner if it's ok, of course....they're always happy to have the vines 'thinned'.
Wait til the leaves are off the trees, wear jeans and take your red-handled pruner. (You don't want to spend your time searching the ground).

You'll recognize the bark and me on that. Look around the base of trees, and you'll see a slim trunk growing up into the canopy. Cut the vine at the base, and slip the pruner into your butt-pocket. Now, grab the vine and'll be amazed how much comes down! Pull it to the nearest clearing and, starting with the end you cut, make a circle and hold it while you continue wrapping the length around the circle. When you've used up about half of the length, hold the main part between your legs (jeans, remember?), and start winding the last part from the outside into the center, around and around. No wire or string is needed...just tuck the ends between the vines.
Cool, huh? Now, go make another one!

On being a florist....

Here we are, going into the holidays, my favorite time of the year.
Pine, artificial or fresh, makes an arrangement easier to do, and better looking, I think.
Glitter--well, I DO love glitter. Give me something that sparkles, anytime!!

I'd like this blog to be a place for florists to share ideas or pick up new ones. The design magazines are always a good place for info, but sometimes clarification is needed, and most florists seem to be able to describe things pretty well. (If only I could use my hands, here!)

I worked in a Mom & Pop setting for 30 years (at the same shop--through four owners) and now I'm working in a full-service grocery store setting.
The differences are amazing! At the little shop, it seemed like we always had time to fiddle with projects--paint effects? Cut-outs? Layering leaves? Sure, no problem! But now, we do things the fastest way, for the best effect. Flowers are forgiving, and fill in where you don't have time to fill, right?
In the little shop, we worked from a sense of scarcity. (50 stems has to do, so don't waste ANY). In a corporate setting, now, we work from a sense of overwhelming abundance. Where once I counted EVERY insertion, now the "look" is more important...what we call a $25 arrangement would have been a $37 arrangement in the little shop. No wonder there's so much animosity toward grocery store florals.

OK, I'm rambling here...but I'd really like to hear from other florists "in the trenches"...techniques, new product, what's worked for you. Oh, and what you think about as you design!