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A February Flower Frenzy – how flower shops experience Valentines Day

Stuck in a small town, no place to go, his girl leaving on the 9:55 night train headed south, and an F100 rumbling through snow dusted county roads to catch the train before the next stop...

And on the radio was The Haunted Windchimes.

Photo by Kara Mason
Photo by Kara Mason

Few
things in life are simple, and even simplicity can be full of chaos. A bouquet
of roses on Valentine’s Day seems like a simple act of gratuity, of love, of
appreciation. Getting those flowers, however, is a whole different story.

For
27 years Joe Roderick has been a florist at Campbell’s Flowers and Greenhouse.
His description of the store on Feb. 14 is “organized chaos.” He laughed as he
recalled the scene of the store on the notorious day he was already preparing
for.

“People
just form a line and sometimes it reaches clear out there,” he said, pointing
to an extension of the store stretching out about 25 feet.  He said people grab what they can and that’s
good enough… most times.

He
noted that occasionally somebody would complain about the shade of pink being
wrong or the arrangement not meeting their expectations but it wasn’t a problem
because the person behind them wouldn’t hesitate to take the less than perfect
bouquet off their hands.

In
fact, Roderick explained, people will buy anything they can get their hands on:
tulips, carnations, roses, daisies, pretty much anything on display in the store
on Valentine’s Day is fair game.

Even
with all of the madness Roderick recollected, he seemed cool, calm and
collected, the total opposite of his description of the events only a couple
weeks away.

He
depicted the end of January as the “calm before the storm,” that is if a storm can
be described as a whirlwind of rose petals, baby breathes, and heart-shaped
balloons. By the beginning of February he has already committed to 4,500 red
roses and that number grows as the holiday nears. 

Come
the first week of February, orders really start rolling in and by the second
week the back room is filled with thousands of roses ready for preparation.

Roderick
and his team make around 100 arrangements to sell to customers who don’t place
an order and though it is never enough, he said both time and space limit the
team from making any more extras. Most of the space is dedicated to the
preordered arrangements.

Roderick,
even in his many Valentine’s Days, couldn’t begin to estimate how many total
vases he and his team would fill.

The
bouquets will usually last between one and two weeks depending on how they’re
taken care of, so really the florists have about four days to make the hundreds
of arrangements.

That
is four days of organizing, prepping and catering to the needs of not only the
flowers but also the people who order them. Roderick said that they often spend
12 hours in the store each day leading up to Feb. 14.

Photo by Kara Mason
Photo by Kara Mason

Valentine’s
Day is often an even longer day, especially if there happens to be snow.
Roderick said that it’s not unusual to be delivering flowers until 11 p.m., and
getting lost in Pueblo West is an ordinary occurrence.

The
day is crazy behind the scenes, in the store and on the road, but has Valentine’s
Day always been so frenzied or is the chaos more of a recent trend?

Well,
it appears the first instances of the holiday were equally full of madness.

There
are two competing theories for Valentine’s Day. The first says that the holiday
was the result of Roman Emperor Claudius II forbidding men to marry in efforts
to build and strengthen his army, but despite the ban, St. Valentine would
secretly wed couples. It is said he paid the ultimate sacrifice for his
disobedience on Feb. 14 and was executed.

The
second and, without question, more entertaining theory says that the holiday
originated during a Roman festival called Lupercalia where men would strip
naked and fling wool thongs at any woman who came near them in hopes for
fertility. Several different variations circulate the web, but the Britannica
encyclopedia sticks to this version.

Today,
Roderick believes that it is society that entertains the idea of madness on the
holiday; that it is more tradition than anything else, but he wouldn’t change it
because it is all done in the name of love. 

By Kara Mason

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Written by Kara Mason

Kara Mason is PULP's news editor. She is also the Society of Professional Journalists Colorado Pro Chapter president. Kara freelances for other regional publications, covering government, politics and the environment.

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