Mother’s Day in Hell: Working at a flower shop


The last time anyone wants a yutz getting in the way at their flower shop is on Mother’s Day — the mother of all flower holidays. (Kristen Tebbetts, owner of Bloomers of La Jolla for the past 10 years, said it’s busier than Christmas or Valentine’s Day.)

Most of the three full-time florists at Bloomers, 7520 Eads Ave., worked from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. on the Thursday and Friday before the big day, fulfilling more than 300 orders. The website was turned off on Thursday evening.

“I finished at midnight and went to check the computer and there were 20 new orders,” Tebbetts said. “I’ve been leaving home at 5 a.m. and getting back late every week. I’m a mom, too, and I want to be with my kids.”

Bloomers of La Jolla had about 80 Mother’s Day orders come in on Saturday, May 11 — and that was after it turned off its website ordering mechanism.

Bloomers would only let me fulfill one order. But judging from the look on my fellow florists’ faces, it was one too many. The order, placed by La Jolla resident Jolynn Deiro, was for a $69 bouquet of “anything.” Apparently, even anything can be screwed up. When I returned from one of the store’s two flower coolers with my choices, I was told that butterfly ranunculus were good for the order since they were $2 each, but alstroemeria were not because they were $6 each. The two flowers appeared identical, by the way.

“To you,” said florist Thomas Hoyle.

Hoyle, a North Park resident, knows his flowers. Even Tebbetts defers to him when a man and woman walk in seeking emergency help for an ailing bromeliad that Bloomers sold them a month ago. (“The older they get, they less color they have,” Hoyle replied, before agreeing to replace it with another live plant.)

The flowers are provided by a wholesaler in Carlsbad, who knows what Bloomers usually orders and reserves it. Tebbetts drives there from her home in Rancho Penasquitos most mornings.

“I fell into flowers,” she said. “It was my first job at age 15. I wanted to be a veterinarian, but the schooling was crazy.”

Cutting the flowers to a size that appears right, I place each into a pot that has been “pre-greened” by florist Caitlyn Flannery. According to Hoyle, my placement is incorrect and will leave holes when it’s finished, holes that could cause the bouquet to fall apart.

“You have to have a structure to hold everything together,” he said.

In Phoenix, where he used to live, Hoyle remembered working for a florist hired to provide arrangements for a million-dollar wedding. As he and his co-workers walked the $1,400 arrangements in their 4-foot vases to the tables — after the guests were already seated at them — Hoyle said that “all the flowers fell out everywhere because they were put together too quickly.”

Like Tebbetts, Hoyle said he fell into flower designing but grew to love it. “It’s like creating little pieces of ephemeral art,” Hoyle said. “Instead of painting a basket of flowers, you’re actually making a basket of flowers.”

Bloomers owner Kristen Tebbetts examines Levitan’s bouquet.

My arrangement was not the worst Tebbetts had ever seen but, she said, “it’s not good.” Her biggest complaint was the pink and orange gerbera daisies.

“You never have two of the same flower in different colors,” she said.

Not knowing anything about a subject has never stopped me from arguing about it before, however. So I suggested we put my floral skills to the test. I delivered the flowers to the customer to see if she would notice.

Immediately, Deiro stared down and said, “Oh,” followed two beats later by “thank you.” Then she stared up with a look I knew well, from its appearance on the faces of the hundreds of females I’ve left disappointed in life.

Before Deiro closed the door, I told her that it wasn’t the real arrangement, which Tebbetts emerged from her flower van with.

Levitan holds the bouquet he delivered to La Jolla mom Jolynn Deiro, who holds the ‘real’ bouquet prepared by Bloomer’s owner Kristen Tebbetts (right).

“That’s so funny!” Deiro said, “and good, because I know a lot of florists and I probably would have sent these back.”

Still unable to admit defeat, I took it home and made the arrangement my wife’s Mother’s Day gift. And she loved it.

Then again, what does she know? She loves me.

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