Floral designers’ tips for Valentine’s Day

by Susan Harris

Justine Marshall and Nancy Huffman

One day in mid-January I stopped by Homestead’s Floral Department to chat with award-winning designers Justine Marshall and Nancy Huffman.  Of course the BIG topic for all floral designers this time of year is Valentine’s Day – the “rush season” that happens on just one day, in the dead of winter. (For the real lowdown on the flower business and especially how florists cope with Valentine’s Day, read Amy Stewart’s Flower Confidential*, which actually made the New York Times bestseller list – not a frequent occurrence for books about plants.  Nancy recommends it, too.)

For Justine and Nancy, floral design is “our passion”.  So their favorite occasion must be Valentine’s Day, right? Gobs of passion!  Nope. I was surprised to hear them both say their favorite designs are the ones for funerals – because they’re a family’s last expression of love for the deceased, and are often so personalized.  Wow.

But back to Valentine’s day and those designer tips:

  • Roses last up to 3 weeks IF you follow the care instructions and IF you buy high-grade roses, which Homestead does.
  • Safeway and other chains often buy from the same suppliers – usually in Ecuador – but they buy a cheaper grade, which means they don’t last as long.
  • Okay, in case you lose the care instructions, here’s what they say: to remove foliage below the water line.  To re-cut stems underwater with a sharp knife, then immediately place stems in a clean vase filled with warm water and floral preservative.  Then display in a cool location away from direct sunlight.  And add water with floral preservative daily.
  • For the less traditional, non-rose look, they recommend tulips, cyclamen, and blooming plants.
  • More gift ideas include a gourmet foods gift basket, a spa basket, even a chocolate-lovers basket.
  • Longest-lasting option of all? Cut, mixed flowers in a vase.
  • Order early! If you order by February 3, delivery is free.
  • Check out some of the choices on the Floral Department’s website, where there are five pages of  “Love and Romance” arrangements.
  • This year Valentine’s Day is on a Sunday, but Homestead’s floral department WILL be open and making deliveries that very day.
  • For more information or to place an order, call 410.798.4888.

*Some bits from Flower Confidential that may be of interest – that the “buy-local” movement may not be appropriate for cut flowers because lots more resources are needed to grow them in greenhouses around here than in Ecuador.   Also, growers in the cut-flower trade carefully choose varieties for their longevity and suitability for cutting, so we can’t expect to see flowers that look and perform like them at local garden centers.

Floral photos by Melanie McCabe.

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