Spring flowers

Floral arrangements, such as this creation by Relles Florist, usually are big business during Easter week, but not with the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo courtesy of Relles Florist)

Easter is the first flower-filled event of spring pruned by coronavirus. Florists are in challenging times.

Traditionally, this is a big week for florists. In the days leading up to Easter, local florists create festive arrangements for churches as well as family get-togethers.

In addition, the spring calendar is usually dotted with lots of weddings, graduations and other celebrations—all flower-filled occasions.

But not this spring.

“For all of us, it’s challenging,” said Jim Relles, owner of Relles Florist in Midtown. “We’re taking it day by day.”

Relles’s family business has been serving Sacramento needs since 1946, through several economic ups and downs. But the current COVID-19 pandemic has created unique circumstances. Among them: Midtown looks like a ghost town.

“Since we’re selling floral products, we’re considered part of agriculture and we’re able to stay open” as an essential business, Relles said. “But we weren’t sure we could get any flowers to sell.”

Like any crop, flowers are planted months, sometimes years, in advance of harvest. Those Easter flowers are ready for customers now. Otherwise, they’re compost.

Some flower wholesalers initially shut down, but reopened once they knew farms would be sending fresh blooms and florists would be able to sell them.

“Luckily, we’re getting flowers, mostly from California growers,” Relles said. “South America [the source of many popular blooms] is trying to get back up and going, too. We may not have every flower requested, but we have about 100 varieties in our store.”

In short supply are carnations, mini-carnations and pompoms—all florist staples. Peace lilies have been hard to get.

“We’re being flexible and creative,” Relles said. “Our staff is doing a great job.”

In Fair Oaks, Arpik Mirzoyan of Bella Fiore Designs is still filling orders for delivery only. The usually bustling streets of Fair Oaks Village, where her shop is located, are empty.

“We have hope that things will get better and events will come back. June weddings are coming up.”

Arpik Mirzoyan of Bella Fiore Designs in Fair Oaks

“Offices are closed, which is understandable, but they’re my weekly accounts,” she said. “I usually take flowers to retirement homes, but not now. I’ve had weddings and some other big events, all canceled.”

Mirzoyan is still buying flowers and making personalized arrangements. She does a lot of work through BloomNation, the online floral marketplace.

During this time of high anxiety, a bouquet can bring some relief. “Of course, fresh flowers ease anxiety,” she said. “They make people smile.”

But her business has been slow.

“Usually, Easter week is really busy, doing a lot of fun stuff,” Mirzoyan added. “But this is a very hard situation for everyone. We have hope that things will get better and events will come back. June weddings are coming up.”

Taking phone and online orders, Relles Florist cut its hours to 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday. Jim Relles himself is making many of the deliveries.

“Easter Week is traditionally big and we are still sending out some stuff,” Relles said. “The priest at one Catholic church is doing a virtual Easter service and he asked for some altar pieces.”

Relles worries about the weeks ahead, in particular another flower-filled holiday—Mother’s Day. For florists, the second Sunday in May ranks close to Valentine’s Day in terms of orders.

“I think this year, Mother’s Day will be even more important,” he said. “Flowers make people happy, they bring joy into your life. I’m sure people will want to express their love and give flowers.”

Mom will say thank you, and so will the florist.

Debbie Arrington, an award-winning garden writer and lifelong gardener, is co-creator of the Sacramento Digs Gardening blog and website.

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