Monday, August 22, 2011

Laura B, hungry moose and the incredible stinking flower.

I'd like to take a moment to sing the praises of the often-unsung-heroes of the floral design industry: the wholesale reps. These are the people-behind-the-people, the go-tos, the know-it-alls!

People often ask me where I get the flowers I use in my designs, since I need them in such mass quantities. Heading over to Whole Foods to stock up on, say, 200 stems of orchids and 600 stems of garden roses would get pricey! Fortunately I have a resale license, which allows me to shop at Kennicott Brothers Wholesale Mart.

It's a lovely place to be, and so far a simple visit to the refrigerator room there has a 100% track record at livening even my bluest of moods.

Kennicott also happens to be home to one of my favorite people in all the world - my wholesale mastermind, Laura B. She is a genius to end all geniuses! She gets to work at 6 am every day and is smiling, helpful and pleasant even when I show up unannounced at 6:30 am, demanding 5 bunches of hot pink mokaras! She is, in a word, lovely. See?

Without Laura, I'd never know that here in Chicago, peonies in late August aren't really doable, unless I order through the growers in Alaska who still have some because it's colder up there... oh but whoops, looks like even that won't work because there's been a tragic invasion by some hungry moose who devoured the whole supply!

Without Laura, I wouldn't know that a particularly healthy rainy season in South America has produced unusually lovely hydrangea, so we should order from there instead of California.

And without Laura, I wouldn't know about flora like euphorbia, lycopodium, mimosa (the shrub, not the cocktail) and countless others. Every time I visit the flower mart I'm seen running in and out of the refrigerator room holding some crazy new find and shouting at Laura "WHAT is THIS? I must have it!" She always knows immediately what it is, where it's from, how much it costs and whether or not I can use it in a boutonniere. She amazes me! She even packages all my orders up for me in easy-to-carry boxes with my name on them (which honestly never gets old):

Funny side-story. In April I did some fantastic (if I do say so myself) arrangements for a snazzy supper club event at the Nature Museum here in Chicago, put on by the food geniuses over at City Provisions. I wanted to create arrangements that were themed in accordance to their location in the museum. So I made some pretty goofy requests of Laura. "I need some flowers that look like bugs' eyes, or bugs' houses, or those muddy birds' nests" was one of them. And when I asked her to keep an eye out for anything "really marshy and wetlandsy and cool, like something you'd see on a hike in a misty forest preserve" she found these guys:

Groovy, right? When I arrived to pick up my order that day, Laura whipped these out and I could hardly contain my excitement. They were quite rare, from a shipment in from Holland, "where all the super cool stuff comes from", according to Laura. I had to have them!

Now, little did she or I know, but those pretty pearl-like droplets inside the cup of the flower contain enzymes of a rather pungent smell. In fact, once the flowers were out of the nearly-freezing temps of the refrigerator room and allowed to warm up to their normal temperature inside my car, they began to produce a stench of biblical proportions. I'd almost made it back home when finally, eyes watering, nose running and spirits crushed, I admitted to myself that these flowers next to a tray of food would not aid anyone's appetite. Even the lures of chef Cleetus Friedman's amazing bison meatballs in smoked tomato sauce couldn't defeat this terrible odor!

So I turned around and headed back to Kennicott, where Laura graciously took the stinkers back. (With super rare stuff like this, even my brilliant Laura can't know everything!) My car was stinky for hours after, even though I kept the windows down. That Mother Nature, she's something else!

Anyway, I just wanted to give credit where credit is due. Behind every fancy professional shot of my finished work (like this one of the marsh arrangement mentioned in the stinky flower story)... the collective kindness and wisdom of one Laura B. at Kennicott Brothers. Thank you for everything over the years, Laura! I'm so lucky to have stumbled into your path!


  1. Hilarious post! And Laura B. is undoubtedly a flower genius.

  2. Thanks! It's true, she's the secret behind my success!