Almanac

Cover Story - February 13, 2013

Hearts and Flowers

On Valentine's Day, 'Everything's Coming up Roses'

By Jane Knoerle

Like heart-shaped boxes of chocolates and romantic cards, flowers are an intrinsic part of Valentine's Day, especially roses.

Since ancient times, roses have been considered a symbol of romance, beauty and love. Red roses are the flower most associated with Valentine's Day. We'll let you in on a little secret, however. Many women aren't that fond of red roses and would be happier with flowers that blend in with their home decor.

Maria Zapata, floral designer and manager at Draeger's Supermarket in Menlo Park, has gorgeous long-stemmed red roses available, but they cost $85 a dozen, either hand-tied or in a vase. "Men gulp a little at the price," she says. Choosing a mixed bouquet could be a less expensive alternative. Last week the refrigerated cabinet in Draeger's floral department held several mixed bouquets, including an arrangement of pink roses and white hydrangeas that would be perfect for Valentine's Day.

Top quality roses are expensive because wholesalers double the price right before the holiday. Cheaper roses are often those purchased weeks earlier and kept in cold storage. The stems are dried out, causing the blooms to fade quickly.

On Wednesday and Thursday, Feb. 13 and 14, Ms. Zapata will start filling orders at 4 a.m. "We'll be getting our roses in Wednesday," she says. They are flown in from Ecuador. She expects a flurry of customers on Valentine's Day begging for anything red. "Guys just don't think ahead," she admits. Some advice for next year? Order at least two or three days before the holiday. "We'd really like a week," she says.

• Draeger's floral department, 1010 University Ave. in Menlo Park. 324-7754.

Emily Joubert Home and Garden

The typical Valentine's Day client asks for a dozen or two of red roses, says Casey Cox, manager of Emily Joubert in Woodside. However, a popular alternative is the shop's assortment of "grab 'n' go" bouquets, already festively tied with tissue and ribbons. The bouquets might be mixtures of roses, tulips, peonies, sweet peas — "whatever looks good at the Flower Mart," says Ms. Cox.

"Last year we mixed red roses with yellow French tulips striped with red. It was really popular," says Ms. Cox.

For the gentleman looking to make a grand gesture, she suggests sending a Valentine's bouquet with a note saying flowers would be arriving either weekly or monthly throughout the year. Has anybody ever done that? Oh, yes, says Ms. Cox who notes she has "four or five customers who have a weekly order."

An ideal patron is one who says: "Make something beautiful. I don't care what it is," she says.

• Emily Joubert, 3036 Woodside Road, in Woodside. 851-3520.

J Floral Art

The most lavish Valentine's Day order Jeffrey Adair can recall was for $2,000 worth of red roses in an assortment of arrangements to be used throughout the house. "We also gave the gentleman a big bag of blossoms," he adds. (Scattering rose petals?)

Another grand Valentine gesture was 10 dozen red roses in a vase so heavy two people had to carry it. "They were extra long stem, about three feet," he says.

Seven years ago Mr. Adair moved J Floral Art from Santa Cruz Avenue in Menlo Park to 3489 Edison Way in North Fair Oaks. While much of his business is from longtime patrons, there will still be plenty of flowers available at the store for Valentine's Day.

He expects red roses to be the favorite, despite the fact they're expensive. "It's what men have in mind and it's only once a year." Roses will come from Ecuador, Colombia, Holland, and Southern California, which boasts a species "noted for its fragrance."

For Valentine shoppers without a clue, settling on a price is a good starting point, says Mr. Adair. Then one asks the wife or girlfriend's favorite color. If the client doesn't know, then it's, "What colors does she wear?" Mr. Adair's advice: "Find a florist you can trust and put the rest in his hands."

Today's younger customers prefer more symmetrical arrangements and more of the monobotanical variety (flowers of one type), he says. "At home we have small vases of flowers throughout the house, mostly monobotanical."

In the 27 years J Floral Art has been in business, Mr. Adair has developed ongoing relationships with many customers, dating back more than 20 years. He has corporate and residential clients whom J Floral Art delivers to weekly. "They're our bread and butter," he says.

• J. Floral Art, 3489 Edison Way, in Menlo Park. 363-0313.

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