TARZANA — There's no black leather couch where Mary Blohm works. But after designing flower bouquets for 22 Mother's Days, she may have heard more stories of Oedipal Angst than Freud.
"I've got to give her something, " one Mother's Day shopper told Blohm. "Do you have a black rose?"
Another asked her for "dead flowers."
For his mother-in-law.
On this holiday especially, florists like Blohm find themselves playing the roles of friend, confidant and counselor to complete strangers, offering flower-shop therapy and listening to intimate relationship details they never wanted to know--all in the interest of holiday harmony.
"It's a little like being a hairdresser," said Bates Hinds, head designer at The Flower Factory.
But even the busiest of hairdressers won't clip and prune as much as these folks over the next few days. Mother's Day is the second biggest day for florists, after Christmas, and at The Flower Factory a few extra florists were brought in to handle the "hundreds and hundreds" of orders that were coming in.
While workers in the back of The Flower Factory soaked white orchids from Hawaii and lopped the stems off red tulips from Holland on Friday morning, those helping customers out front strained to stay sharp under the growing rush. It is now about 10 a.m., and Simon Soriano, who owns the shop with his brother Elton, had been on the job since 1 a.m.
A simple mistake, the wrong card on the wrong bouquet, can cost the shop some business, or a customer his marriage.
"Keeping girlfriends and wives separate--that's important," said Hinds with great seriousness. Men have sought his professional advice on which floral arrangement to buy for their wives and which for their mistresses.
Extreme, spy-like discretion is also required. Hinds remembered the time the wife of a Don Juan stomped into the shop.
"Is my husband sending flowers to someone else?" she demanded.
"Oh, I don't think so," Hinds replied, and went into the back room as if to check sales records. He twiddled his thumbs a minute and returned to tell a small lie. "No."
Information on who purchases what for whom, you see, is top secret in this surprisingly intimate business. Intimate as well are the messages customers jot down on cards--or even dictate over the phone.
"He calls with in-depth letters, intimate things they do at home," said Robbi Soriano, Elton's wife, of one customer's dictation. "They have names for their sex parts (but) I can't figure them out."
Such spicy requests happen year-round, but the sheer volume of orders around Mother's Day--when the florists are exhausted and the customers are emotional--can make this a memorable time of year.
The florists recalled one woman who sent a specially tailored Mother's Day greeting to her husband's mistress: a tall vase of white lilies tied with a big black bow and a card that read, "This is my last threat."