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Bridal bouquet

Yes, the brides are coming. The engagements have been announced and the dates are being set, some of them more than a year away, in order to lock in a place for the reception, or for the church. Gradually, the attendants will be asked, and the talk will turn to dresses and shoes and accessories. There is a whole lot more to planning a wedding than just showing up. And, eventually, the subject of flowers will come up. Suddenly, it will be a most important topic.

For the florist, most of our work, other than working with families of the deceased, is happy work. We do birthdays and anniversaries. We welcome babies into the world with flowers. We send flowers to help people get well. We help to celebrate successes.

In days of yore, bouquets were mostly made of half a dozen types of flowers in any one season. Year-round there were carnations and roses and chrysanthemums. And during the spring, we saw a lot of sweet peas, tulips and daffodils. Just before summer, lilacs — many times, from one’s own garden. Summers were fantastic. There were so many choices that it was hard to choose. Think garden roses and delphinium and dahlias and daisies and the sunflowers that started in August and led us into the fall selections. There were more chrysanthemums, sedums and flowering kale. At that time, the selection seemed endless.

Fast-forward to the 21st century, and you will find that unlike for your mom’s wedding day, there are more than the dozen varieties of roses she could select from. On any given day, today’s florist can search various markets and have more than a couple hundred varieties available. They range from the purest white, Akito, through several shades of green — I like Lemonade for my green — dozens of shades of pink (Jessika is beautiful) and into the dark reds, Freedom being the most popular these days. No, there is no truly black rose, but many of the deepest purples nicely pass for “close to black.” And yes, you can spray, dip or stem-dye for a black rose, but the true beauty of the rose will be gone.

Let’s go past the roses and look at other flowers, some of which were around 30 or 40 years ago, but not in the beautiful colors we have today. The beautiful gerbera that comes in several sizes and a myriad of brilliant colors was originally just a pale yellow, transvaal daisy. Right along with that color we had the Peruvian lily. Its botanical name was and is alstroemeria. Again, the scientists went to work and gave us brilliant colors, longer-lasting flowers and configurations that could be used in table arrangements.

The beautiful purple orchid, often 6 inches across, has gone away to be replaced by the phalaenopsis orchid that we see in home improvement stores. They can be designed into beautiful bridal and attendant’s bouquets. Alas, that old favorite lily of the valley is only available during those few short weeks of late May through early June. (That really is not true because they are available much of the year, but out of the budget of most brides during the off-season.)

In past years we often included foliages, most often leather-leaf fern, as backing to our bouquets. Today, they can be a major part of the creation. Today, I was looking at a bouquet made entirely of foliages, at least six or seven kinds, and right in the center was one huge white duchess rose. It was at least 5 or 6 inches across. (To get a rose that size you start a large variety, half-open the rose and then gently remove the petals off another fully open dozen or so of the same variety rose. You then, using tape and very thin wire, add them to the outside of the petals until you get to the size that you desire. Expensive, but magnificent).

I believe that I will devote two or three columns to weddings in the next few weeks. It is a very large and rapidly changing part of our business. And I want to talk especially about trends for 2019.

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Carmen Cosentino operates Cosentino's Florist with his daughter, Jessica. He was elected to the National Floriculture Hall of Fame in 1998, and in 2008, received the Tommy Bright award for lifetime achievements in floral education. He can be reached at cosenti@aol.com or (315) 253-5316.

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