Updated: 6 days ago
As a small flower shop, most days I personally "do it all" : take the order, make the order, and deliver the order. This means that I have an intimate, if limited, view into who is sending the flowers, why they are sending them, and who they are sending them to. While it seems like the world has been turned on its head and everything is different, flowers continue to be simple and beautiful sources of comfort. Yet along with everything else, the who, what, and why of flower delivery has completely changed with this pandemic.
Flower Delivery Before the Pandemic:
In the normal world (aka before corona-virus temporarily shut most things down), 90% of my orders came from someone out of state and I'd guess 99% were sent out of necessity. By necessity I mean they were sent by someone who felt some kind of obligation to send flowers: mother's day, birthday wishes, and sympathy. A lot of time I deliver flowers between people estranged, (for some reason a lot of them are from fathers and step-mothers whose daughters will no longer speak to them). Orders between estranged people are often higher touch because the sender is desperate to know that their gift was received and I'll usually get an anxious call the day after asking me to confirm that the flowers really and truly reached their destination. This is sometimes followed up by questions I can't answer like "why didn't she let me know she got them?" or "is he doing okay?"
The main reason for the rare local flower orders from sent from within state is because a romantic partner screwed up. A lot of these go to the sorority houses on the hill near our university. The order usually comes in around 2 am with a long and rambling note attached--which I dutifully hand write word for word the next day before delivery. I have special, extra large cards for this exact occasion. One time I even got a corrected version from the sender's mother the next morning--reminded me of when I taught history at the university in my past life.
So, generally speaking, in the normal non-pandemic world, flowers seem to be sent out of obligation and necessity from people living out of state to people they don't often see and who may very well be estranged from, angry, or disappointed in the relationship.
Flower Delivery During the Pandemic:
About 6 weeks ago when everything started to shut down, business ground to a halt. First my daily phone and online orders dried up, then brides started calling and asking for refunds for their canceled weddings, finally my corporate and restaurant clients froze their subscriptions. Just as flowers stopped being available at the wholesale flower markets, my flower gardens started pumping out spring blooms and I found myself swimming in daffodils, hyacinth, and early tulips with nowhere to send them. My kids have been a big help and together we made dozens of paper wrapped bouquets with these extra blooms and doorbell ditched all the neighbors, leaving sweet posies on doorsteps.
Unexpectedly, the day after my kids blasted the neighborhood with blooms, I got my first new order in weeks. A neighborhood mom wanted to send small paper wrapped flower bouquets to three of her friends in the area. The order totals were much smaller than I usually can afford to take on but besides homeschooling my two kids; trying to keep the house, my husband, and myself sane; and worrying about my small business; what else did I have to do? I loaded the kid's wagon up with the bouquets, set the route in google maps with the little walk figure enabled, and told the kids this would be a geography lesson. It took 15,000 steps and two hours but the weather was warm and the smiles we got along the way were well worth it. I tell you, the next few days were a lesson in the power of chain letters--flower style. Each of those three moms wanted to send flowers to their friends, and those friends wanted to send flowers to their friends. I delivered flowers from one woman to her neighbor across the street and I hid flowers on the side of the garage for a man to give to his wife. The notes I'm writing are suddenly silly and anything but driven by necessity: "Our love cannot be quarantined.", "I miss squeezing you.", "Thank you for creating our own little house on the prairie.", "I miss your face.", "Thank you for being you.".
The take away:
Flowers have the magical ability to make us stop, breathe, and be. They connect us to the natural world in a simple yet powerful way and sharing them helps us connect with each other, from near and afar. While I miss the stability of the pre-pandemic flower delivery scene and guilty or obliged senders in a roaring economy have deeper pockets than those of us shuttered at home, I am loving the silly, genuine, and local move toward sending flowers. If I could, I'd bring a big dose of that with me to the other side of this pandemic. In the meantime, keep connecting with people in whatever way you can and when the opportunity arises, stop and smell the flowers--maybe even leave a few on a neighbor's porch.