Tuesday, February 8, 2011

A bloomin' big statement: This Valentine's Day, shout it with flowers

Most of us are familiar with the florists' sentiment to "say it with flowers." But what if this Valentine's Day, we not only want to "say it," we want to shout out our love with an extravagant floral masterpiece.

Several area floral designers offered some ideas on how to make a Valentine's "bloomin' statement."

Angela Mueller of Wild Iris Gifts and Botanicals in Manitowoc said that even though roses are the traditional blossom of choice at Valentine's Day, their presentation — and numbers — needn't be.

"Roses are always the most popular at Valentine's Day," Mueller said. But for super-sized arrangements, just a dozen won't do.

"A dozen is pretty common. But I had a big one last year with five dozen roses, and (the customer) included a necklace, a balloon, a stuffed animal and chocolates," Mueller recalled.

While there may be strength in numbers, a dozen roses can still make a statement when arranged uniquely and creatively. For instance, Mueller has cut roses to different heights and "staggered" them in a display for a dramatic look.

"It's a dozen roses, but it's a different look," she said.

Obviously, saying "I love you" in a big way doesn't simply mean flowers. Mueller said her store also features handmade jewelry that can be added to the arrangement, as well as candy cakes. Singing and recordable balloons, stuffed animals and goodies of all types are welcomed additions to the Valentine's display.

While roses in red or related hues are the customary color of the season, Mueller said roses come in a variety of colors and can be arranged to order.

"We do have people coming in here who say 'her favorite color is orange,' so we do an orange arrangement. Blue roses are always dyed. There are multi-colored roses, up to five colors. They're awesome," she said.

Mueller said she and her staff enjoys "thinking outside the box" and designing unique — and elaborate — displays. "We try to go beyond the roses and baby's breath you can find anywhere — something more than the grocery store look," she said.

One way to do that is by using more exotic flowers.

"Calla lilies are very popular in many different colors. The traditional calla lily is white but the mini callas come in different colors," she said.

Orchids are another popular choice, as are hydrangeas.

"They almost have a Victorian look," Mueller added. Small rhinestones are sometimes put inside the petals to "kick up" nature's bounty.

And while most of her customers are men buying arrangements for their favorite lady, men can also be the recipient of a floral love note.

"Ninety percent of the arrangements ordered at Valentine's Day are from men to women," Mueller said. A more masculine arrangement usually centers on a theme, like hunting (think blaze orange roses) or a sports team (yellow and green Packers colors can fortunately be found in a variety of flowers and plants) or hobbies.

What has been her most elaborate or memorable Valentine's Day order?

"I had an order for a dozen different vases filled with many different things like flowers, chocolates and balloons and every couple of hours we would deliver an arrangement for her," Mueller recalled.

Flowers bring joy to Mueller as well as her customers.

"It's fun to customize things for people," Mueller said. "It's fun to see people in love. Some people are very romantic and some need a little help. We're here to help."

Floral designer Jennifer Entringer is one of Cupid's helpers at Caan Floral and Greenhouses in Sheboygan. She said that the classic Valentine's Day arrangement involves the rose, and usually the red rose.

"Roses are always the most popular, normally red. And if you want to go extravagant in the roses, you can go two dozen, three dozen. It's always impressive in a vase. If you want to stay with the classic romance of the roses, we can still do it extravagantly. The sky is the limit," she said, adding that different and impressive containers can add to the cache of a traditional rose arrangement.

However, Entringer said that if you want to add a little "heat" to your Valentine's arrangement, it might be wise to think tropical.

"Birds of paradise, protea, anthurium — anthuriums are actually a heart-shaped flower — and they're red. They also come in green, white and pink. They're tropical, something a little different, but with a Valentine's theme."

Entringer said requests for a tropical arrangement in the middle of a frosty Wisconsin winter don't come often, but she wishes they would. "It really 'spices' it up for us … it gets the creative juices flowing."

It would be Entringer's hope that an arrangement of tropical flowers might evoke warm thoughts, both romantically and weather-wise.

"It's still winter here for us, and people, if they've been to the tropics, they'll be familiar with flowers like bird of paradise and it's going to bring them a little bit of warm weather right along with some extravagant-looking flowers," she said.

Speaking of extravagance, Entringer recalled one arrangement from a Valentine's past that represented not only beauty, but opulence as well.

"A number of years ago, a customer bought a dozen of the standard calla lily in a vase, and those are expensive. It was in a huge vase … it was very impressive. And the flowers themselves can be 8 to 10 inches long. So you're talking big flowers, which makes a 'wow' presentation."

Finding a vessel for the "wow" runs the gamut from traditional vases to baskets to buckets to heart-shaped ceramic containers to glass cubes. "If the customer has something special they want to use, we'll be happy to accommodate them," Entringer said. "You name it, we can do it. It's really a lot of fun."

David Kucensky, owner/designer of the Flower Cart in Sheboygan, along with Kathy Pruitt, floral designer at the shop, shares in that fun. Kucensky said that while roses and orchids are the most popular flowers to give at Valentine's Day, there are a lot of different, beautiful accent pieces that can be included in the presentation.

"Instead of the typical baby's breath filler, there are all kinds of fun things out there, like misty blue statice, leucadendron and genestra, which has a wonderful, woodsy fragrance," Kucensky said. "It's more expensive than your typical baby's breath, but it's a lot more exciting and unexpected."

"You can bend some of these to make hearts as well," Pruitt said, adding that the genestra comes in the appropriate Valentine's colors of pink and white.

In keeping with the "super-size" theme, Pruitt suggested using really tall, pilsner-type vases, accented with interesting greenery, which in itself can make a dramatic floral statement.

"You can wrap the vase with leaves inside the vase," Kucensky said.

Kucensky said just by ordering flowers through a florist who makes the delivery gives a special "kick" to the gift.

"Part of the "super-size" idea comes, I think, from ordering from a florist versus going to the grocery store," he said. "We can deliver to their place of business and I think most people like the 'show.' They want all their friends to see this. They're loved and appreciated and can say, 'see, this is what I got."

Sometimes the message is very dramatic.

"We did do a vase of roses with the card message was an engagement," Kucensky said. And Pruitt recalled a time when she did an arrangement that spelled out the recipient's name in flowers.

Love apparently knows no monetary bounds. Even in a downsized economy, Pruitt remembers that last year's Valentines included a number of orders for multiple dozens of roses.

"We were really quite taken aback when we got several orders for two and three dozens of roses to be arranged," she said.

And if Cupid really wants to open his wallet, orchids and calla lilies exceed the cost of roses. But it doesn't have to be exotic or particularly expensive to be impressive. The tulip finds its way into many arrangements.

"Tulips are available all year round," Pruitt said. And a special type of tulip, the French tulip, makes a dramatic presentation. "If you want a little more show, French tulips have a really big head and long stems. They make a great big presence. They're very pretty and very springy and you can think about the fact that the grass will sometime be showing again."

Kucensky added, "If you want to make it unusual, you can wind the tulip inside the vase. We can put it inside a tall pilsner."

And like true love, French tulips have a wonderful characteristic: "They last a lot longer than a regular tulip," Kucensky said.

As will the fond memories the recipient gets when "I love you," is said in flowers.