It's 11 a.m. on Feb. 13 and Brian Kiernan hustles out of flower shop into the parking lot cradling not one but two gorgeous bouquets.
Kiernan, a realtor with is about to deliver the yellow gerber daises and deep purple lisianthus to his Valentine and wife of 12 years, Yvonne at work. The other bouquet, a dozen long-stem red roses, will await Yvonne at home once she returns from work.
So why the dual bouquets a day early?
“This way she can enjoy flowers at home and work all week long,” says Kiernan, “like a birthday celebration.”
Um, can someone please nominate this guy for husband of the year stat?
Inside, Bunches resembles Grand Central. A constant stream of men come and go more steadily than commuter trains at rush hour. They are all looking for the perfect flowers for that special someone and Bunches doesn't disappoint.
It's no surprise the European-style bucket shop located in the quaint alleyway just celebrated its 20th anniversary. That the colors, textures and mix of greens with flowers will be stunningly creative is always a given.
Today the choices are endless. Floral designers feverishly arrange bouquets of traditional roses and sweet smelling narcissus, tulips, freesia, ornamental kale (so hot right now) and tropical ginger from Hawaii.
There are pots of blooming hyacinth and crocuses. Orchid “gardens” reminiscent of fancy Hawaii resorts. Bags of fresh rose petals for the guy who wants to surprise his Valentine with a trail leading to a romantic bubble bath for two.
The male customers run the gamut from seasoned pros to newbies. One older gent approaches the counter with an armful of long-stem red roses and white Casablanca lillies. He declines owner Nancy Copolillo's offer to arrange the flowers. “Are you sure you wouldn't like some greenery with that?” she asks.
“No thanks, I'm going to do it myself with cuttings from my garden.”
At the other end of the spectrum, a twenty something guy who looks a little overwhelmed with all the choices finally makes his selection. He gingerly hands them over to Nancy to work her magic. “Is tap water okay for these?” he asks.
“Oh, yeah sure,” replies Nancy.
On this day, the ages of the customers are as varied as their horticultural experience. At the opposite end of the store, Jonathon, 7, peruses the flowers with his mom. In an adorable twist, the first-grader is carefully choosing an array of different flowers for his dad. His final selection includes a pink ice protea chosen because its soft petals “feel like a bunny,” a yellow Dr. Seussian pincushion protea and a single long-stem red rose.
"What do you think, Jonathon?” asks Kat, one of Bunches ace floral designers, presenting him with the arrangement.
“Great,” he says.
No sooner has Jonathon departed than Frank approaches Kat. “Can you guys make me a bouquet?” he asks.
“Sure,” says Kat. “Do you know what you want?”
“Yes, I want roses but she likes tulips,” says Frank of his fiance. As Kat helps him choose some gorgeous pink tulips from Soquel, ivory roses and fluffy white genestra filler—“way hipper than baby's breath”—Frank relates his last year's Valentine's horror story. “I ordered flowers from a florist in Menlo Park but they never delivered it.” This year he isn't taking any chances.
“I'm going to give her flowers tonight so she can take them to work tomorrow—apparently it's a competition thing.”
Kat arranges the bouquet beautifully. Frank heads out and it's on to the next customer. “I can't believe it's already 4:20,” says Kat. “I've taken maybe five minutes break and two bites of food all day.”
Meanwhile in the trenches of Bunches' back room, Sarah and Courtney are up to their elbows in thorns, discarded stems and leaves. Their cutters click nonstop. Custom arrangements are lined up and down the counter, from tall clouds of pale peach roses and chocolate oncidium orchids to chic compact arrangements of hydrangeas and tulips. The women have lost track of how many arrangements they've made for Tuesday's deliveries but still have a huge stack of orders to go. And that's just for today.
Just about the only staff member who is chillaxin' is Pete, Bunches' resident duck. She sits near the back sink minding her own business.
For possibly the only day of the year, Pete is totally ignored amid the Valentine's hoopla. No one fawns over her or stops for a photo op.
And it seems to suit her just fine.
She could have her pick of Valentine's flowers sure, but all it takes to make this girl happy on Feb. 14 are a few lettuce leaves. Talk about low maitenance.
If you're still looking for that perfect bouquet, Bunches is open 9 a.m.-6 p.m. on Valentine's Day. For updates on Pete and info about what's hot off the truck, be sure to “Like” Bunches Flower Shop on Facebook and coming soon—Pete's FB page.
Visit Kim Ratcliff's blog, www.laughingattheground.com.