Roses Come in a Variety of Colors

Last week, straight out of the snowy wilderness, I headed for a different type of crazy. If you have never experienced the madness of a flower shop in early February, you might not fully understand the modern redefinition of the Valentine’s Day Massacre. Over the years, I think I’ve spent ten out of the last fifteen Valentine’s Days working at various flower shops, trying to keep the blood from my thorn-raked hands from touching the roses. I worked as a designer at a shop in Madison as an undergrad, then revisited the skill as a grad student in Missoula (with a little pitch-hitter holiday moonlighting along the way in LA, New England, and various friends’ weddings).

Because I was already in the area and feeling masochisitic, I thought it would be fun to spend a few days at Bitterroot Flower Shop, punishing my body. And you know what? Sore back, pulled tendons, and scabby hands aside, it was fun. Just how I remembered it. Kinetic, exhausting, hilarious, chaotic. And girly. Look, Mantana if chocked full of dudes. I work and hang out with them constantly, sometimes exclusively, for long periods of time. That is great and all, but sometimes a lady needs to be around her own kind. In my experience, a flower shop is a good place to find them. We discussed the sad death of Whitney Houston and her legacy of sassyness. We talked about Beyonce while listening to the anti-love song station on Pandora. We planned Valentine outfits (which, incidentally, ranged from engine red fishnets, to black skulls, to elbow-length formal gloves, to pink unitards). It was glorious.

By any other name would smell as sweet

For all my days as florist, I have often pondered where the majority of our flowers come from… what hot and humid lands… and about who sprayed them and with what toxin, and who picked and packaged them, under what conditions. In the summer there are lots of local alternatives, but roses don’t grow in Montana winters. I have struggled with the moral and ecological conflicts the flower industry presents for years. (Read Amy Stewart’s book Flower Confidential if you are interested in more information.) I’ve never quite made peace with it. But rather than dig into any of those details here and risk delivering a big ol’ buzz kill to any of you dear readers lucky enough to still be looking at a bouquet from your sweetheart, I’ll leave it at this: specifics aside, it is both a joy and a gift to be able to creatively contribute so directly to the happiness of others. No one is ever unhappy to see a delivery van pull up. Whether they represent comfort or celebration, flowers are a beautiful reminder that someone is thinking about you, that spring is coming.

Yeah, the Hallmarkian commercialization of Valentine’s Day has gotten out of control, and yes, the origins of the day are dark and sordid, but screw it, I’ll be a romantic until the day I die choking on cherub-shaped chocolates while taking a champagne bubble bath. Clocking out from a fifteen-hour day of standing on cement, elbow-deep in greenery, I was stupid-tired and communicating from the whimpering end of my whiny spectrum, but I fell asleep in the bathtub knowing I’d help set some hearts a-flutter. Not bad for a day’s work.

This showing is just the tip of the pink, heart-shaped iceberg.

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