Monday, December 5, 2016

Poison Lilies and other dangerous (and safe) plants

Is it poisonous?  Florists are often asked the toxicity of certain flowers and blooming plants, especially around the holidays.  While we cannot guarantee the level of nausea you or your pet will feel after consuming decorative flowers and plants, we can give you a list of toxic and non-toxic plants:

Poinsettias are the #1 blooming plant to be given at holiday time in December.  It's also the #1 misunderstood plant.  It is NOT poisonous, however, eating any part of this plant or any other plant will likely make you nauseous to a certain degree.  Also the yellow cluster in the center is the actual "flower", the colorful bracts are not.

Although kissing under the mistletoe is still a very popular custom, you should never eat it.  Mistletoe is poisonous to humans and animals.   It has greater complications for pets, even if it is a dried version of the plant.  As a florist, I never carry fresh mistletoe for liability reasons.   Holly plant and berries have a similar toxic effect on pets and humams and should be kept out of reach.

Another seasonal favorite in December is the Amaryllis. Amaryllis is in a genus or group of similar flowers with names like "Belladonna Lily" and "Jersey Lily" named for their lily-shaped petals.  It is not part of the actual Lilium family but is related to Easter lilies in the Hippeastrum family.   It usually considered more toxic to pets as humans are less likely to try and consume the flowers or the bulb.  The bulb of the plant contains higher concentrations of the chemicals that cause complications in pets.  

Christmas Cactus:
This colorful plant blooms in December and is NOT poisonous.  It would be a good choice as a gift when safety is a prime concern.  

However, any fiberous plant material is not going to agree with any pet or human, and will usually cause stomach irritation /or nausea, but will not be life threatening if the plant is considered Non-toxic. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Florists' Holiday Wish List

The inspiration for today's quick blog is from my own experiences in my flower shop.  So many times when I am waiting on a customer, they will remark that I must be hard to shop for.  Being a floral designer, my husband can't simply send/bring me flowers for my birthday or any other special occasion.  So what do I want instead?  

Beyond my normal response to my customers ("Wine, chocolate & jewelry- ha ha") there are things that I especially crave after a long brutal holiday:

1. Shoes with additional supportive inserts that don't look like crocs.  Skechers tends to make more trendy work shoes, some even with non-skid soles. 

2. Hand lotion/repair cream. The good stuff.  Even as I type this my hands are already the texture of fine grit sandpaper.  Shaping Christmas trees made from various PVC is extremely rough on one's hands. Cold, dry weather and constantly dealing with water are also big factors.   Pine sap is SO HARD to get off completely that I give up halfway to Christmas and deal with "pitch hands" smudged, sticky, and pine-fresh smelling.  

3. Massage Therapy.  Enough said. 

4. A clean car.  Vacuumed especially.  I never have time for this between business and kids and sports so it is especially appreciated. 

5. Dinner out.  Anywhere.  A few years ago we had dinner at Burger King on Valentine's Day because the restaurants were absolute madness and I was too exhausted to cook and he was working late.  I honestly was so happy to sit down to eat my food instead of over my design table that it was great. 

I'm sure I could think of a few other items but this is the top of my list.  :)

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Being Thankful

It's Autumn.  Fall leaves, pumpkin spice, sunflowers, wheat and other fun flowers fill our cooler on a daily basis.  We are surrounded by Halloween decor in the stores followed swiftly by Christmas decor.  Sometimes the Christmas comes to shelves prior to Halloween (!).  Anyway, the point is that Thanksgiving is getting overlooked like the middle child in a family of holidays.  This is sad.  Let's change that!

Be Thankful what is good in your life. If you have a tough time with finding something to be thankful for- the fact you are alive and breathing should be a good place to start. Life is short.  We, as florists, help others express their mourning through flowers every day.  We read the obituaries every day.  We travel to funeral homes to place flowers on top of and inside of caskets.   Florists have a healthy sense of mortality and are pretty happy to be alive.  You should be too-  So let's celebrate that!

Buy flowers for yourself!  Decorate your dinner table with a few choice blooms or an elegant centerpiece.  Dot the table with votive candle holders with a single small blossom for each guest to take home with them.  I did a variation of single stems of multi bloom alstroemeria for my dinner table one Thanksgiving- easy peasy!
Spread the happiness to someone else- everyone LOVES flowers.  Even just one stem of daisies can brighten someone's day.  This Thanksgiving make sure to bring flowers for your host or hostess.  It need not be something elaborate.  Just a few stems for them to enjoy after the festivities is all it takes. The gesture is always more important then the gift.  Let's be Thankful this November!


Thursday, September 8, 2016

Flower Ordering 101

First time ordering flowers? Not sure what to send?  This is a quick guide to help you navigate the flower shop:


Send flowers for no reason.  
Take flowers home on a Friday "just because".  
Always sign the card. Always
Ask the florist to help you pick the best flowers in stock that day.  
Tell the florist if there is a favorite color or flower you would like to incorporate
Have all the important address information ready when placing the order
 (street address and phone numbers), we operate just like the post office in that regard- no address no delivery.  
Call/Order ahead.  We can get just about any flower in with enough notice.  But they do have to be shipped from other states or countries, so please, give us as much notice as possible for special requests. 
Save yourself the aggravation and call a real florist, with a real address in the city you would like the flowers delivered.  

Send red roses unless you have exchanged "I love you" verbally. 
Send flowers anonymously.  It sets off "stalker alarm" and "stranger danger" panic mode.  It may also backfire on you.  Trust us. 
Use discounted websites with paid ads like "Only $19.99!"  "FREE same day delivery!".  They are not florists.  They take your money and turn around and call us, the REAL florists, to fill the order. AND they keep that whole "delivery charge" for themselves.
There are probably more but these are the basics

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Casket and Urn (Memorial) Flowers - a quick guide

It happens to us all at some point in our life.  We have to pick out flowers for a loved one's service.  Whether it be a parent or spouse, it is usually something we do not think about until it happens to us. 
Hopefully this will help answer any questions when you find yourself in this situation. 

What do you need to order?  It depends on what type of services you are having and your relationship to the deceased.  If you are the spouse, son, daughter, or immediate living next of kin (brother, sister)
then the flowers for the casket or urn are most likely your responsibility.  

Casket Flowers 
There are flowers for caskets, whether they are open or closed.  Casket sprays come in "half casket" and "full casket" sizes.  "Half" is 3' miniumum in length, is usually ordered to be placed on the lower half of the casket during family and friend visitation hours, then moved to the center during services at the church or graveside.  "Full" is typically 5'-6' in length, to cover most of the casket lid, and is ordered when the casket is remaining closed for all visitations and services.  Casket Sprays are designed in "casket saddles", the saddles come from various manufacturers and are made to sit on top of the casket, not slip, and be easy to transport.   

Special circumstances: 

Military- If there is a flag on the casket- you do not place flowers on the flag or casket.     Standing flower easel sprays to be at either side or both sides are ordered. 

Infant/Child- Have your florist contact the funeral home directly to obtain measurements.  Infant and Children's coffins are relative to the age of the child, and will not require the same size flower arrangement/casket spray.  (There was one occasion where it was a still-born infant and the casket was the size of a shoebox.  I donated the flower accent for the "casket" out of pure empathy for the mother, I have two small children and those are the orders that always make me cry and hug my two just a little closer every night) 

Double Caskets / Couples casket- Again, have your florist contact the funeral home directly for measurements.  Usually this style of casket will require a "Full" casket saddle to achieve proper width, not necessarily to achieve length.   Again, this style is unusual but I did design a casket spray for a couple that died in a fire and wished to be buried together. 

Cremation/Urn Flowers
  Until I took a back door tour of a funeral home in  2001, I had no idea that "urns" came in every shape, size, color, and composition imaginable.  Most "urns" look nothing like an urn vase.  The most popular cremation urn is actually a very nice square wooden container, sometimes with an engraved plate on the front or top.  No matter what style of urn you decide on, there are many things to consider when ordering flowers.  

Size: What is the shape and color? Dimensions?  Will it be on any type of pedestal or just be placed on a small table.  Table dimensions?  

Style: Do you want flowers on either side of the urn (aka bookend style) ?

or all around?

Another option is for families to place pictures of their loved one surrounding the urn on a table, with one or two vases of flowers as an accent.  

There are many other options to help personalize the flowers for either the casket or urn, or even a memorial service which has neither casket or urn.   I have incorporated sports flags, golf clubs, baseball bats, fishing rods, etc into casket and standing sprays.  
I have hand carved Oasis floral foam into the shape of a dog, a tattoo gun, and acronyms.  These items add a personal touch that is comforting to the family of the loved one. 

A Note about Flower Availability
While we strive to meet every request to create beautiful flower arrangements and tributes, regrettably time is often not on our side.  Tulips go out of season, Flooding happens and wipes out crops in South America, Lilies continue to be stubborn and take 2-5 days to fully open some weeks. Death comes for every one, and rarely do you have advance warning. We too are not able to predict death and when we will need lilies to be open, tulips to bloom, etc.  When this happens, we try our very best to find adequate substitute flowers, either in the same style, shape, or color family.  

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

How to order flowers for a funeral (Part 1: if you are ordering for a relative, co-worker, or friend)

  I receive many questions each week regarding what is "appropriate" to send when a friend, co-worker, associate or relative dies.   The answer is : pretty much any arrangement of flowers, small or large, is a gesture of love, thoughtfulness and sympathy to friends or family who are grieving.  You can never go wrong with acknowledging the passing of someone special.  However, I would like to point out some guidelines to keep in mind:

Balloons, stuffed animals and silk(artificial) arrangements are discouraged.  Unless you are an immediate family member (son, daughter, mother, father)picking out the item for yourself to take home after the service.  It is not appropriate to send these items to a funeral.  There is a fine line between paying respect and celebrating the life of the deceased and sending an item that is generally reserved for parties and the living.

When possible, group names of individuals together by families on enclosure cards.  Those that are grieving are going to glance at the card messages to gather a gist of who sent the flowers.    Same goes for long messages or passages- a simple "Thinking of you" , "You're in our Thoughts and Prayers" or "With Deepest Sympathy" followed by "From the Smith Family"  is really all that is necessary.   Direct messages to specific family members, personal messages, and religious passages should be handwritten on a larger card and hand-delivered or sent in the mail to the house for family to keep.    Keep it short and to the point.  The family will appreciate those longer messages of comfort and healing thoughts after all the chaos of the funeral is over.

If a group of people is going in on a sympathy arrangement, I would suggest no less than $10 a person.  The average funeral arrangements start at $45-$55.  It will look tacky for 20 names to be on a card of an arrangement that is the smallest in the room (*the exception is if the names on the card are of children)

Funerals are also not a time to "out do" another friend or family member with the size of your arrangement.  Let's not lose sight of the meaning of sending flowers.  It's the thought behind, not the size of your arrangement that is important.

"Don't use funeral flowers!"   I don't even know what this means.   Flowers are simply flowers, especially to a floral designer.  We do not categorize them by occasion but by color, length and size.

Fresh flowers are designed in 2 styles for funerals - For the home and for the service.  The items that fall in the "For the service Category:
Standing Easel Sprays:

Wreaths and Crosses on Easels: 

Traditional One-Sided Sympathy Arrangements (aka: maches/ funeral baskets)

For the Home arrangements are everyday vase and basket arrangements that are sent to the funeral/family visitation for a family member to take home after the funeral services are concluded and enjoy in their home: 
 If you would rather send an arrangement or plant directly to the home, that is also acceptable in times of grief.  Keep in mind when requesting delivery dates that any day after the funeral services have concluded, and up to a month afterwards is suggested and appropriate.   Most families are rather hectic during the period of time the services are scheduled and may not be available to receive deliveries.  

When placing your order online, in the "Recipient Name" fields- please put the name of the deceased when requesting deliveries to churches and funeral homes. Newspaper and online obituaries are organized by deceased names,  and we organize our deliveries by the deceased name as well.    

While the florist will deliver before any family visitation begins, we are required to deliver to the funeral home (or church's) flower room, usually in the rear of the building.  We are not involved with the final placement of your flowers in the receiving room.  That is strictly up to the funeral home staff or director.  

The lighting in a funeral home parlor/room is drastically different than regular daylight and will change the overall color and appearance of your arrangement.  Blues and purples are especially hard to see in darker rooms, while white and yellow stand out the most.  Greenery also tends to look very dark and increase the "spaces" around the flowers.  

I will cover ordering flowers for immediate family in the next blog post.  Hope this was helpful and is a point of reference the next time you need to order for a funeral.  

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Rose Prices Explained

Valentine’s Day rose prices are driven by supply and demand of the consumer.  Growers start charging wholesalers and retailers escalating prices in December and January.  These prices reflect the additional crops, labor and materials used to keep up with current demand as well as future demand. 
Growers have to produce enough roses in January/February to meet the needs of the consumer.  If a typical flower shop buys 100-200 roses a week year round, their supply for Valentine’s week is usually 10 times that or more.
Typically the difference in price is roughly 3 times what year round prices are for the same product.  In order to maintain the same level of profit and cover costs of goods sold, retailers must raise their prices also. 
Weather conditions during the growing season for the valentine’s crop, fuel prices and the economy also affect the prices on roses. 
Most roses are exported out of South America.  If they receive heavy rains, flooding, drought or pest damage to their crops, this affects the amount of supply coming out of South America. 
Fuel prices and the supply/demand equation that applies to fuel prices are a great example of the flower industry’s supply/demand equation.
With the expansion of the Internet and openness of trade with South America, many big box retailers (i.e. grocery stores) are able to purchase flowers directly from the grower.   Their advantage over smaller, family owned flower shops is the volume in which they buy.   Their order is generally for several thousands of stores, which guarantees them bulk discounts.   This is where the price difference is the greatest in grocery vs. independent flower shop.  
The difference in quality comes into play once the flowers receive their retail destination.  An independent flower shop’s staff is trained with years of experience on how to properly care and handle fresh flowers.  They are also able to pass on their education to you, the consumer, on how to properly care for your flowers once you get them home.  They will also package your flowers and plants to protect them from the elements once you leave the store.  Fresh flowers cannot withstand temperatures below 34-36 degrees. Green plants, 55 degrees.  Blooming plants 40-55 degrees.  

This article is simply to help the consumer understand what drives prices up at Valentines day and why there is a price gap between big retailers and smaller family owned businesses.  

Monday, January 11, 2016

Wedding bouquet estimates- What we need you to know.

You've found a bouquet you are in love with and email the picture to your florist for a price....and then you may (or may not) experience sticker shock.    Here are some things to consider before and after you get the bouquet price:

1. The picture rarely shows every stem that is actually in the bouquet.  What you can typically count is only the top view.  Your florist can only see what is " in " the picture and needs to estimate based on a real life 3-D bouquet.   So if we see 3 sunflowers, we estimate for 5 total, etc. to properly itemize everything in the bouquet.

2.  Usually, not always, the bouquet was made for a photo shoot, i.e. designed to look good in pictures- OR to emphasize a particular style, color or flower. Many more stems were used then what would be actually necessary to achieve this look.  The designer is not creating the bouquet based on budget but on what will photograph best for that magazine, website, etc.

3.  Your florist can reproduce just about any bouquet in a more economical way.    We scale down the number of stems of each variety.  The bouquet above, while beautiful, contains quite a few flowers.  Some of which are not very big and cost the same as some of the other bigger blooms.   You can get away with less of those expensive blooms and still retain the overall look and feel that you love.

For example, in the above bouquet, I estimate that there are:

5-6 Gerbera Daisies
15-16 Mini Calla Lilies (!)
3 +/- stems of Safflower
3 +/- stems of Nigella
3 +/- stems of Eryngium Thistle
5-6 sunflowers
6 +/- stems of Hypericum Berries
4 -5 blooms of Cymbidium Orchids
4-6 stems of Leucadendron "Safari Sunset"
+ assorted curly willow tips, greenery

with labor, that brings my price to design this bouquet to approx $465.00  

I could recreate this same look for under $200.00.  How?  By scaling back the quantities used, omit one or two varieties of flowers that are not necessary to the overall look, and possibly substituting more of one variety than another when necessary.

And this post isn't about crushing your dreams for that big beautiful bouquet.  Remember, your florist does not know what your budget and end-goal for flowers are unless you tell them!   I can work estimates up much quicker if I know the budget and what is the priority for the bride before rather than after.   I can scale the estimate to meet the bride's expectations versus over shooting the budget and disappointing my clients with an unrealistic flower budget.    Maybe the bride wants to splurge on the bouquet for herself and improvise elsewhere.  Anything is possible! ( A final note about big bouquets:  big bouquet = lots of flowers = heavy.   Like 2 lbs or more.  )

-The above picture was submitted to me for a proposal,which inspired this post. The original designer/photographer is unknown.  -