Brilliant colors and soft pastels are hard to find in the natural landscape of winter when shades of gray dominate the local landscape. But for the florists in Juneau, bringing color to Southeast is serious business no matter what the season.
"It's pretty gray here, so people tend to go for vibrant spots of color," said Tamar Green, co-owner of Miss Scarlett's Greenery. "Most of our customers buy flowers to cheer themselves up or to cheer up someone else."
Traditionally regarded as a luxury item associated with special events and holidays, flowers are becoming a more commonplace purchase that supports a handful of businesses in town.
"There has definitely been an evolution in flower buyers," Green said from her downtown shop. "It has to do with how busy our lives can get and the trend toward simplifying our lives."
"Now, people think it's OK to treat themselves to flowers and other things to improve the quality of their lives," she added.
Although holidays and special events play an important role in Green's business, the most frequent sale at Miss Scarlett's is not associated with a specific occasion.
"Sixty percent of our customers shop regularly and the bulk of our business is non-occasion purchases," Green said. "The other portion of our regular customers will shop for specific events, such as sending their mother an arrangement every Christmas or something like that."
At Floral Arrangements by Carr's, customers are also buying flowers without an apparent reason except to brighten up their own, or someone else's day, according to Emelinda Moto, manager of the floral shop.
"Most of our customers are just everyday flower buyers," said Moto, during a short break from designing arrangements. "We see mostly the same faces, it's amazing. It doesn't have to be a holiday or anything special going on, people are just buying flowers."
Lynne Clements, owner of Martha's Flowers and Flowers and Weddings Unlimited, said special events are still the mainstay of both her businesses.
"Almost any occasion is a flower occasion, but we're busiest with sympathy, weddings, birthdays, anniversaries and the holidays, especially Valentine's Days, Mother's Day and Christmas," said Clements.
"Historically, holidays fill in for the slow time for florists, who work like crazy during the holidays," she added.
Although there is enough business to support several floral shops in Juneau, purchasing and shipping flowers to Alaska is not always an easy process.
Green has developed relationships with flower-growers in the Pacific Rim and Northwest, New Zealand, Australia and Hawaii. Moto's flowers come from Ecuador and Columbia, and Clements' inventory originates from Miami, California, Washington and Oregon.
Regardless of where the flowers come from, they all need to get to Juneau as soon as possible.
"You just look into the limited shipping options and figure out the quickest way to get them here," Green said. "The most important thing for us is to be able to track our flowers in case they get lost on their way."
Another obstacle for local florists is the cold weather during the winter months.
"We have all our flowers winter-packed since they are flying at 22,000 feet and it's pretty cold up there," Green said. "It's like putting a sweater on the flowers with extra insulation in the box and bunches are double sleeved."
For Clements, winter presents a challenge both in the air and on the road.
"Weather is our biggest setback. It's not only getting the flowers here, it's delivering them when the roads are not conducive to driving and when it's really cold outside," Clements said.
"Plus, we service the villages by delivering our flowers by small plane, so that presents another situation if the weather is bad," she added.
Despite the inherent problems of bringing flowers to Alaska, Juneau's florists ensure something alive and vibrant is available for purchase regardless of the season.
"We're in the business of helping people celebrate their lives," Green said. "We live in a high-tech world, and to balance that we need high-touch in our lives. Flowers are so appealing because they are frivolous and such a treat."
For Clements of Martha's Flowers, the old adage that claims the way to a woman's heart is through jewelry and flowers still rings true, but that doesn't necessarily mean going broke in the process.
"It's not really what you give when it come to flowers, it's that you give," Clements said. "Sometimes a single rose is much
more memorable than a dozen of them.
It's just the idea that you are giving the
gift of a flower. But, it's not only women who love flowers, guys really appreciate them too."