The roses you bought on Valentine’s Day were ordered before Christmas and traveled almost 4,000 miles by air for the occasion.
And ordering those flowers is Brenda Wolf, who has been in charge of the floral department at Safeway for five and a half years.
Under her watch, the Safeway floral department has won the Roundup’s annual readers poll for best floral shop multiple times. They took the win again Feb. 11.
Originally from a suburb of Oklahoma City, her family owned and operated a floral shop there for 35 years — and the shop is still there today.
She moved to Payson in August 2013 to be near grandkids. She now has 43 years experience in the floral industry.
“The people of Payson are fabulous, sweet, kind and supportive,” Wolf said. “They are always walking by and saying how pretty things are. I look forward to going to work every day. They make me feel at home.”
Many of the flowers are grown outside the U.S.
“Ecuador has the prettiest roses because they’re close to the equator so the rose head is larger,” Wolf said.
Columbia, Costa Rica and other South American countries are also sources.
“There are miles and miles of roses,” said Wolf. “I’ve never been there in person, but have seen photographs.”
“Farms in Ecuador and other regions have small planes that only carry flowers from South America to Miami. They are cut, put in cold storage and delivered to the docks. Most of the farms have brokers on the bay there that regular shops can call and order from.”
Spring flowers like irises, daffodils, snap dragons, spring mix flowers and peonies are grown in California, gladiolas from Michigan. The flowers come from all over the world.
Wolf orders the flowers through Safeway, whose buyers handle the sourcing and selection.
“It’s easier than owning your own business,” Wolf said. “You don’t have to find your growers.”
Valentine’s Day is the biggest holiday of the year for the department, just outpacing Mother’s Day.
This Valentine’s Day, Wolf sold 250 dozen arrangements of roses not including cash and carry bundles, mixed arrangements and other items.
“We order Valentine flowers in the middle of December,” Wolf said. “In the floral business you’re always five to six weeks out so you have to project, cross your fingers and hope you’re right. I’m fortunate here because Safeway keeps very good records from what sold last year, so I have that as a guide. We can’t return flowers if they don’t sell.”
The procedure is pretty much the same for each major holiday.
For Valentine’s Day, pallets of glassware arrive and are stocked in January. Two weeks before the holiday, three palettes of living plants arrive and Wolf dresses them up with hand-made bows and ribbons.
“I dress 500 plants in two weeks,” Wolf said, “I make my own bows, I don’t buy them.”
The flowers arrive a few days before Valentine’s Day then production is in overdrive.
Wolf makes 250 dozen rose arrangements in the two to three days leading up to Valentine’s Day and builds displays.
“It’s a lot of work. People see the pretty side, but every flower that comes in has to be processed, cut, put in water and arranged,” Wolf said. “Then there’s signage and pricing and the displays to create. There’s a lot of detail in floral, but it’s worth it.
“Working in a grocery store is different from having your own flower shop,” she said. “Our own store was mostly call-in orders. Here, people walk in on the spur of the moment, it’s a whole different world. Fast paced, fun.”
Wolf said she was thrilled Safeway was once again voted Best Florist in the Best of the Rim poll.
“You always want to know that people appreciate what you do, it makes you feel special and I feel very happy.”