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Happy Valentine's Day: What's happening to the flowers?

Where have all the flowers gone?

All of my loved ones know that the best way to make me happy is to take me with them to pick out my flowers for Valentine's Day or birthdays or whenever.

Since arranging flowers is a hobby of mine, I always want something different to play with. And not everyone knows what flowers would please someone picky like me who is always looking at all sorts of them. I routinely visit florist friends, even when I don't plan to buy, just to talk with them about what's in their cases.

For years, Wegmans stores in many parts of New Jersey were my favorite place to shop for flowers. Wegmans would routinely have unexpected varieties. About 10 years ago, I would buy flowers every week, and I discovered safflowers at Wegmans in Woodbridge. Who knew that a name  associated with salad oil is also related to a gorgeous flower? The flowers and plump buds with soft, thistle-like tops, dried to a paper-bag brown on tall stems. I still have them, and I have not seen any anywhere since.

More recently in 2017, I got the most beautiful Valentine's Day flowers: bright pink scabiosas from another Wegmans store. It was a delight to watch these flowers, actually clusters of miniature blossoms, open in layers. I've since learned that scabiosas are easy to grow in the garden, but I saw them for the first time in a water-filled plastic flower bucket at Wegmans. I'm always excited to find cut flowers that I have never seen before, and Wegmans was a reliable supplier in that regard.

Not so this year. This year, the Wegmans store we went to had hundreds of bouquets, moved to the front of the store near the entrance as an apparent reminder to Valentine's Day buyers.

In all the rows of this display, there were so many bunches of common flowers. Roses that looked battered and too far open to last until Valentine's Day, along with spider mums, alstroemeria and the other sorts of flowers that always seem to appear in mixed supermarket bouquets.  The prices for these tired flowers was high, starting at $25. I refused to let money be spent on my behalf for inferior flowers whose quality did not warrant the higher price. Wegmans typically does not sell mixed bouquets in plastic sleeves. Instead, their mixed arrangements are most often sold in vases at various sizes. Clusters of one  type of flower, in bundles of a single color, are what's usually available. 

I tend not to like mixed bouquets, but at Trader Joe's on Monday this week, the "mini bouquets" at $3.99 each caught my eye. Three of these were purchased for me, and I put together the arrangement shown. Each had calla lilies, which I adore, tufts of refreshing green dianthus, sprays of small red and hot pink roses, and the exciting contrast of purple statice. In these arrangements, I did not mind the alstroemeria, which complements the other flowers. Don't get me wrong, alstroemeria is a lovely flower, but it's everywhere. I can usually get lots of them in good shape for about $4 at any ShopRite.

Anyway, I cut the stems relatively short and tucked them into a little red vase previously rescued from a thrift shop. (It still had the .99 cents price tag). I have been filled with happiness each time I pass these flowers in their red vase. 

On the day before Valentine's Day, and even tonight at 7 p.m. when I made a quick supermarket run, it was sad for me to see men grabbing up uninspired bouquets at the very last minute. I wondered about their wives or girlfriends, and I wondered about their lives. Getting flowers that were obviously purchased hastily out of a sense of obligation doesn't seem very romantic.

Is it the afterthought that counts here? Perhaps.  I suppose any flowers at any time are better than no flowers at all. 


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