The first sense triggered in the florist shop in downtown Aberdeen is smell — the smell of Christmas in the evergreen wreaths, the piquant aroma of the flowers by the bucketful ready to be arranged on the worktable in front of the cooler. The next smell is harsh and chemical — the odor of spray paint and adhesive used on the branches standing as tall as a trellis in the back of the store.
The smells waft all the way to the front of the store, which is devoted to seasonal arrangements, poinsettias and small gifts such as lotions, stationery and even boas. The middle and the back of the store is where the wreaths and arrangements, such as the mid-sized pot that will be fashioned today, are created and crafted.
Flowers by Pollen, with the slogan “nothing to sneeze at,” was transplanted recently from Hoquiam to 118 E. Heron St. by owner Janis Pollen.
Sheril Woodruff, the CEO of design, as Pollen calls her, has 16 years of experience on the Harbor. She has done arrangements for proms, graduations, weddings and first baby celebrations, she said. She likes working for Pollen because she is given a free hand in designing the work. Carol Reid handles deliveries.
Marriage brought Pollen to the Harbor twice. The first marriage ended in divorce and Pollen returned to work in floral design in Las Vegas, her hometown. When her second husband died there, she returned to marry the widower she had dated between the two men.
Creating floral design is a “very personal business, you deal with people’s happiness and you deal with people’s sorrow,” says Woodruff. “You get to know (people) well enough to feel as though we are part of what goes on in their lives.”
They usually add at least one signature peacock feather and are known for exotic flowers. The names of several species are kept secret.
They like to reflect the desires of the customer and add a personal touch. For a funeral of a fisherman, they included fishing gear. A child’s funeral featured her favorite crayons. When a bride walked down the aisle, a small photo of her deceased father was tucked in so he could walk her down the aisle, Woodruff said.
HOW TO ARRANGE
The step-by-step creation of a floral piece shows it’s harder than it looks, Woodruff said. Lots of natural plants or lots of bling can be used, most people prefer a bit of both, she said. People also ask for specific colors or plants and flowers depending on what they can afford.
Most clients want glitz — the “trees” and arrangements from Flowers by Pollen are covered in white paint and glitter.
Andy Bickar, owner of Rediviva restaurant, for example, is one of a few who prefers the natural look. He asked for simple, natural arrangements for his new business, so they did a succulent with curly willow and moss, in a natural pot.
Perhaps the best advice, Woodruff says, is to trust your taste. In addition to odd numbers of elements, Woodruff prefers irregularly shaped designs. If even numbers and symmetry appeals, then go for it, she says.
“We’ve learned the correct way to do things and then we throw it out the window,” she says.
One of the reasons both women like working together is the camaraderie. Their laughter punctuates the pine and flower-filled air as they stab branches, flowers, greens and the occasional glitzy addition into the pots they are working on. Though bling is used, Woodruff confesses “I hate the word.”
That day’s combination of birthday and Christmas arrangement contains both glitz and natural pieces.
Time to select the branches. This usually involves a wood, such as the branches of contorted fig and/or curly willow, which is grown in a customer’s back yard and sold to the shop.
“You want (them) for the backdrop, the center, so pick something dramatic,” Woodruff suggests.
Woodruff steps in the back, grabs a can and adds another coat of adhesive to white-painted branches of contorted fig. She grabs a shaker and sprinkles iridescent glitter. Next, Woodruff coats the fig branches with a spray adhesive that has silver glitter in the mix.
“I love the smell of the greens and flowers after the glue has died down,” she says.
Pollen tosses her a birch bark naturalistic pot. Wasting nothing, Woodruff crushes bits of leftover bright green foam brick, known as “wet oasis” and puts them in the bottom. She takes a slab of the brick and trims it to fit snugly in the top. This topper is the medium that will hold the arrangement, “so make sure it’s tight.”
The next step involves a little trimming and combining of pieces.
“I am clipping the branches, creating my own one solid branch,” Woodruff said. “The shape of the branches will help you decide on the shape you’d like the arrangement to take,” she said.
She trims the bottoms on the diagnonal so they don’t lie flat on the bottom, can absorb water and glide easily into the medium.
“Poke them as far down into the oasis as they will go,” she said, that way the piece is more stable.
She selects several floppier branches from a trash can full of evergreens: Noble fir, long needle pine, cedar. “Christmas branches are pitchy and piney” she says, selecting as she goes, starting from the bottom and work up to the top.
“Create a flair, a skirt. Just because the pot’s round doesn’t mean you have to go round either,” she says. “For lack of a term, I can’t stand anything that is even. I like odd shapes rather than really conformed.”
She picks up a short-needled branch and trims with pruning shears. What kind of evergreen? “Oh, man, Noble fir,” she thinks. “I don’t know my trees.” Moss also makes a good base for a pot, she says. Cedar branches are floppier and good for draping. Cedar is used in Native American funerals often, because it is sacred, she said.
Now Woodruff reaches for scabiosa pods and fern curls, which total five in number. She adds Asiatic lilies, and bright green spider mums. Red roses add a Christmas touch. “Somewhere under my huge mess … we do diamonds in the rose, crystal fake diamond in the middle of the rose,” she said. She personally prefers a more natural look, but says most of their clients love the bling, er, glitz.”
She searches for “fake snow that comes in a little container. It will last for days and days then disappear.” Add water to it and it expands, it “feels like the inside of baby diapers, feels exactly the same,” she said.
Grouping in threes and fives works well. Janis Pollen and Sheril Woodruff order flowers from South America (roses), California (a lot of them), Hawaii (tropical) and any where else.
Branches: Curly willow, contorted fig, bare branches or any kind of structural piece can work.
Greens: Noble fir, long needle pine, cedar, moss.
Flowers: Birds of Paradise, Antherium Heliconia, Hemonium, carnations, roses, spider mums, orchids, Lamonium
Interest: Pods such as scabiosa are visually interesting as are fern curls and sticks of holly berries. They even use tiny feather boas in bright colors, fake snow, and glitter, of course.
Bows: Creating a good bow separates the designer from the amateur. Anyone hired part time has to be able to make them. Woodruff once earned bruised hands by making close to 180 bows for chairs at a wedding. “She even makes fun of my bows,” says Pollen, chuckling.
1. Cut the tail of your ribbon, then grab and pinch, turn it over, pinch again, holding it all down with the third finger.
2. Fluff the bow, rock band and forth, adding bow loops as you twist it around to make it right side up, if need be. Go diagonally opposite and repeat: Grab, pinch, turn it over, make a loop, pinch again, hold with third finger, rock back and forth, add till it looks as full as you would like.
3. With each loop increase the size slightly.
4. Then punch a wire down the middle, wrap around it, twisting the wire as tightly as possible to hold the bow.
5. Indoor-outdoor ribbon should be used on wreaths and other outdoor creations or the ribbon will bleed, Woodruff cautions.
MAKE IT LAST
To keep your arrangement fresh, spritz it with water and add water to the oasis when it gets dry. Arrangements with a lot of evergreen can last a long time. Use the branches or dried plants to start another one or put them in a vase on their own, since they don’t need water.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Costs for floral work can vary. Flowers by Pollen creates originals so they do not post prices on their website www.flowersbypollen.com. They hold down costs by not being part of a national network. A small arrangement can go for $20, a medium-sized one such as the one created, retails for $40. Bigger pieces are more. A bridal bouquet can cost from $60 to $210, Woodruff said.
They will ask for your budget and make it work, the best possible you can get for the best possible price, said Woodruff. They do not want to turn anyone down.
They will travel for weddings and last year went to Puyallup, Vancouver and the Lake Quinault Lodge.
For funerals “we never turn anybody away or stretch them out of their budget,” she added.