SAN DIEGO, Feb. 12, 2016 – My first entry into the working world was a job at a flower stand. I was 20 years old. I owned it. I operated it. I knew every square inch of that tiny, windy gazebo in the financial district of downtown San Diego, which was a little rundown and not anywhere as nice as it is today.
I quickly learned this: Just as I would be sweeping away the pine needles and bits of Christmas ribbon, Valentine’s Day would creep up like a big red monster. It was time to begin the annual phone calls to growers for roses by the bundle, wholesalers for vases, tiny cards with envelopes, plastic picks, glittery hearts on a stick. You get the picture.
Red Roses. Long-stemmed Red Roses. Red Roses with babies’ breath. Red Roses with ribbons and bows. Getting up at 5 a.m. to place orders for floral deliveries to customers on the east coast. I would cross my fingers and hope my local crop of beauties didn’t get wiped out by rain. Remember that overnight delivery wasn’t a reality back in the late 1970s, much less one hour delivery or drones.
For nearly an entire month, my life consisted of roses, bows and order forms, mainly from frantic customers. Hiring temporary staff for deliveries. Hoping all this floral cargo didn’t get lost and ruin any profits. Imagine three months’ worth of business compressed into a few days. Was a pocketful of cash worth this stress? Thank goodness I was young and could pull those all-nighters without paying the kind of price I would now.
The week of Valentine’s Day we created the Strategic Command Center in my home, basically every square foot of space I could use to store delivery roses. My garage. My bedroom. My neighbor’s garage. My living room.
I braced myself for a week-long barrage of frantic phone calls from sometimes desperate men who hadn’t thought ahead and now realized if they didn’t get those roses delivered to their girlfriends and wives on the Big Day, they would pay the price.
I can’t even imagine how some of those guys dealt with having multiple women to keep happy. No judgment here, just more deliveries. I had paper order slips falling out of my pockets. Another reminder: no computer order systems to keep track and no online ordering. How did we do it?
I slept little those days. If I hadn’t been so darned stressed out, it would have been beautiful to see, a real life crimson tide of mass-produced “Dozen Roses.” The scent was everywhere, as strong as being on Colorado Boulevard at the Tournament of Roses Parade. The Scooby-Doo Band-Aids on every finger from wicked thorn bites. These were the days before my business focused on bigger projects like rooftop gardens, green walls and living architecture.
Now Valentine’s Day comes a bit slower, almost strolling along after New Year’s. Now, red hearts no longer send me into the antacid aisle at the drug store. I can take pleasure wandering through the Good Earth Plant Company warehouse looking at plantscaping projects being put together. Our designers are happily working to create beautiful orchid arrangements for corporate clients without the same stress and urgency of my days in the floral business.
So have a little heart for those hard-working florists who come through for tens of thousands of men (and plenty of women too) like a second wave of Santas keeping love alive this Valentine’s Day.
Jim Mumford, GRP, CLP is the owner of Good Earth Plant Company and GreenScaped Buildings, San Diego, California. Find Good Earth Plants on Facebook.