An Extraordinary Meeting

  What a week this has been! A lot of good things happened to me. Jessica and I attended the annual meeting of the Society of American Florists. It was held at the Ritz-Carlton on Amelia Island near Jacksonville, Florida. The SAF always picks superior places and I think that this oneIMG_1455 is, perhaps, the nicest I have been to in 40 years of going to the SAF convention. . I had a good time and learned a lot
The convention is a meeting place where between four and five hundred leading growers, retailers and wholesalers gather to exchange ideas, see new designs and hear speakers (this year 42 of them) present seminars (this year 37 of them) on topics as varied as diseases of Geraniums, new advertising ideas and floral design. My favorite last week was one on equipment and techniques for making great pictures for use on your website. Jessica spent time in one where 3 Florida funeral directors gave information on how to better work with your funeral director, what, generally speaking, they like and what they dislike about florists and flowers. I popped in for a bit and found it to be most interesting.
Let’s start at the beginning. We all know that wherever you go in Florida, there are plants IMG_1409and flowers and trees. We expect that. But I learned that this year’s theme, and I believe that they change it regularly, was Coleus plants, just two varieties of them. Red and lime green. There were huge beds of them everywhere. Not little beds – large ones – perhaps 25 or 30 feet across and 8 to 10 feet deep. As we struggle here in Auburn, New York to get those plants to 18 to 24 inches, theirs were easily 30 to 36 inches tall.
Hotels love it when they are selected for this convention. There are flowers everywhere and not only in the areas that are ours, but throughout the building. And, in many cases they are changed daily. When I walked in on Wednesday there was a beautiful vase of lilies and roses on the table next to the registration desk. On Friday it was birds of paradise, Anthuriums and a selection of orchids rising out of a huge urn. On Saturday they were replaced with a dozen glass vases of varying heights and diameters each with 2 or 3 stems of magnificent Casa Blanca lilies. The tallest glass was well over 4 feet tall.
Every rest room on the first floor, both men’s and ladies has at least one bouquet of fresh flowers. Dendrobiums are among my favorite orchid. They have 10 to 12 blossoms and a long, slender stem. Picture those draped across the top of the urinals. Really!.
SAF sees to it that every registrant has flowers in his or her room. And then, various companies and organizations send more. We got several in our room, but I hardly got to enjoy them. On her return to the room Jessica took them to the housekeeping ladies. “They’re going to get them when we check out anyway. Why not give them when they can enjoy the full beauty. Besides, you have flowers in your house all the time.”IMG_1423
And then there is the cut flower competition. Growers from around the world sent in their newest varieties and finest blooms to be judged. There were nearly 250 vases of 10 stems – a lot of roses, some delphinium, mums, garden flowers and some of the most beautiful lilies I have ever seen. A lovely spray rose, with very large flowers for that type of rose, with shades of pink and green broad strokes overlaid on yellow took the grand prize.
In about a week I will have a lot of those arrangements posted on my personal Facebook page. I should have it done by next week’s column and will let you know how to get to them. And yes, I will do another week on the convention. I want to tell you about a competition, very much like “Chopped” on the Food Network, where 18 designers who poured their hearts and souls out for the grand design prize.

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