Darrell Martin says the best job in a florist shop is doing deliveries. "Everybody is happy to see you," Martin said on February 14 during a brief lull in the hectic Valentine's Day pace of flower arranging, filling orders and having a variety of arrangements ready for walk-ins.
Darrell should know. He started working for a florist as a delivery boy when he was 16-years-old, a job his son Shane is now doing when he's not studying at Missouri S&T.
It's a family affair. When I stopped in Blossom Basket Florist on the Saturday prior to Valentine's Day, Darrell's wife Kim, a school teacher, was starting to de-thorn the first of many incoming boxes of red roses from Ecuador.
By midday Valentine's Day, only one beautiful vase full of red roses was left, set aside for a funeral arrangement. They had gone through 2,000 red roses, hundreds of lilies, thousands of mums and alstroemeria, and there wasn't a chocolate-covered strawberry anywhere; those had sold out by 9 a.m.
"This business is all about emotion," Darrell said. "Today we're all in love, tomorrow we're saying good bye to loved ones or welcoming a new baby."
Darrell said most of the 800 florist phone numbers in the phone book are processing centers, not manufacturing operations like his.
"When you call an 800 florist for a local delivery, they call me to make the arrangement and charge you $18 for processing the order. Call your local florist; they will take good care of you."
Friends who have received Darrell's flowers have told me they last the longest so I asked Darrell what his secret was to keeping his flowers so healthy.
"You mean besides 40 years of experience? It's how we care for the flowers when they first get here," he said. Each flower has specific needs after being unpacked and prepared for flower arrangements. Daffodils and snapdragons, for example, have to sit in water for a day to remove their natural toxins before mixing them in with other flowers. After being arranged in a vase, or as a gift set with a stuffed animal,
Darrell's flowers are also stored in 38F coolers so they remain fresh as long as possible.
If you receive florist flowers, Darrell said they were delivered with a flower preservative so all you need to do is keep it watered.
To keep cut flowers long lasting, Darrell said add 2 tablespoons sugar and 1 teaspoon bleach to a quart of water. "Sugar feeds the flower and bleach keeps bacteria from growing."
The other thing that was surprising was all the different coolers on the various floors of the old Rolla Victorian home. My favorite is still the main cooler with an oriental rug and shabby chic white dresser. It's hard to see it now with all the flowers ready to walk out the door but a sure sign of spring is when those shelves are lined with bulb gardens.
Page 2 of 2 - Darrell's favorite flowers? "Tulips," he said, "because they continue to grow and change almost by the hour" in a vase.
Now that the rush is over, I asked Darrell if he and his staff were looking forward to sleeping in.
"No," Darrell said laughing, "now we have to get ready for all the guys who have to make up for forgetting about Valentine's Day."
Charlotte Ekker Wiggins is a certified gardener sharing gardening tips in a changing climate at http://www.gardeningcharlotte.com. Copyright 2013 used with permission by the Rolla Daily News. Contact Charlotte at firstname.lastname@example.org.