San Benito Lifestyle

Creating tokens of love for Valentine’s Day

Local florists talk about fulfilling orders and making arrangements for the upcoming holiday.

Ask any florist what is most in demand on Valentine’s Day and you will most likely get the same reply.  “Red roses,” said Claudia Narvaez, an employee of Barone’s Westlakes Balloons and Gifts in Hollister. “It feels great to receive them, to have something special like that sent to you. Delivering a gift that shows love is a huge part of our business.”

Delivering the flowers, though, is the easy part. Valentine’s Day and Mothers Day are the two busiest events for florists, and it takes weeks of preparation to meet the rush of orders.

“We have to get all our vases in, our stuffed animals and chocolate, our balloons,” said Covina Hensley, manager of Expressions Floral in Hollister.  “All the things we are going to need to take care of our customers.”

Covina Hensley, manager of Expressions Floral in Hollister. Photo by Robert Eliason.
Covina Hensley, manager of Expressions Floral in Hollister. Photo by Robert Eliason.

Getting enough flowers to meet the demand presents its own set of issues this year.  

“We put our orders in ahead of time,” Hensley said, “All of our flowers are top quality. We get them from other countries. Some come from Hawaii, and we use about 10 or 12 local growers. But it is a little crazy right now and the growers have had some problems—some have lost half their crops because of the recent rains. So unfortunately prices have gone up.” 

Once the flowers arrive, they must be carefully tended and preserved.

“We have to cut them in a certain way and then add flower food to their water,” Hensley said, “Some flowers have to stay out so they can open a little more, others go straight into the cooler. Some flowers, like temperamental orchids and tropical flowers, all have to be left out. There is a lot that goes into taking care of these flowers before they even reach somebody’s house.”

While Hensley agrees that “roses, red roses” are the most popular item, she has had some more unusual requests from customers. 

“Sometimes people request black roses,” she said. “We try to steer away from them because black roses really don’t exist except in Australia. And they are very hard to get. We can dye them but it takes away from the lifespan of the roses. Black roses are beautiful roses, but there are so many other colors of roses to choose from.”

Jeanette Melita, owner of Moments Flower Shop in Hollister. Photo by Robert Eliason.
Jeanette Melita, owner of Moments Flower Shop in Hollister. Photo by Robert Eliason.

Jeanette Melita, owner of Moments Flower Shop in Hollister, looked forward to a busy week ahead of Feb. 14.

“Valentine’s Day is always a lot of last-minute orders, with everyone scrambling to get flowers for their wives so they know they love them,” Melita said. “This year is hard to gauge, but we have a lot of people buying more flowers because of COVID, with people really wanting to show people they are thinking of them. I don’t know what the connection is between love and flowers, but whoever thought of that, thank you!”

Roses are not in season at the moment, which leaves Melita importing them from Ecuador and other distant lands. But she also likes to add a few unusual flowers to her creations.
“Guys don’t know beyond roses,” she said. “So I like to mix in things like sunflowers and kale flowers and things people have never seen in arrangements.”

Photo by Robert Eliason.
Photo by Robert Eliason.

Several local florists are also working with restaurants this Valentine’s Day, providing bouquets to go along with prepared lunches or dinners.

Amanda Seely, owner of Laughin’ Gal Floral in Aromas, is doing a collaboration with Inaka Japanese Restaurant in San Juan Bautista. She draws her arrangements from her own flower farm, which covers three and a half acres.
“I am a botanist by trade, but I turned farmer and florist about 12 years ago,” Seely said. “I grow a mix of perennials and annuals. I integrate medicinals, proteas, lavender, traditional garden roses, and some more obscure things.”

The wide range of flowers Seely grows gives her both flexibility and creativity in what she uses for her arrangements. When she talks about flowers that say “love” to her, they are Leucojum (snowflakes) and Hellebore rather than the usual flower shop offerings.

“I am not the florist to come to if you want a basic red rose bouquet,” Seely said. “I am a non-traditional flower grower and designer. Right now, in the place of roses, I am using seasonal flowers like ranunculus, anemone, narcissus. Poppies are wonderful. I grow Icelandic poppies, oriental poppies, Asiatic poppies, French poppies. There are many more—you are dealing with a botanist, so it is a very long list.” 

This Valentine’s Day, Lolla in San Juan Bautista is collaborating on a charcuterie board and flower special with two of her employees, Maya Dizon and Christina De La Cruz, who together own Sweetheart Bouquets.

“We just got started in August of last year,” Dizon said. “We both had this random idea of creating arrangements and it finally happened. It is super fun to create bouquets and put together pieces that can create life in a space. And flowers symbolize somebody’s love for you and appreciation for you.” 

Photo by Robert Eliason.
Photo by Robert Eliason.

For Hensley, a gift of flowers is even more important this Valentine’s Day as people are facing the continued stresses and isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“When you are in this situation with COVID,” Hensley said, “and your loved one maybe is not with you, just having something that reminds you somebody is thinking of you is heartwarming. Right now there is a lot of depression out there and these flowers brighten up someone’s day, always.”

San Benito County Florists

Barone’s Westlakes Balloons and Gifts
191 San Felipe Road. Suite J, Hollister

(831) 637-7343

Expressions Floral
50 San Benito Street, Hollister

(831) 636-6861

Laughin’ Gal Floral
19211 Pioneer Place, Aromas

(831) 207-1780

Moments Flower Shop
575 Monterey Street, Hollister

(831) 313-1205

Sweetheart Bouquets
San Juan Bautista

[email protected]


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Robert Eliason

I’ve been a freelance photographer since my dad stuck a camera in my hand on the evening of my First Grade Open House. My dad taught me to observe, empathize, then finally compose the shot.   I have had gallery showings and done commercial work but photojournalism is a wonderful challenge in storytelling.   The editors at BenitoLink have encouraged me to write stories about things that interest me, turning me into a reporter as well.  It is a great creative family that cares deeply about the San Benito community.