Children of an earlier time did the monster mash. The Connells Maple Lee Flowers & Gifts Kids Club has an updated take on Halloween: spooky succulents.
The kids club is celebrating the season with its first virtual event, offering free take-home kits that will allow children ages 5 to 12 to decorate a Halloween tin with a succulent plant.
Kits include a tin decorated with a jack-o-lantern, mummy or Dracula; two-inch succulent; cellophane for lining the tin; instruction sheet with QR code linking to a video with assembly and plant-care tips; and a Halloween coloring sheet.
Kits must be reserved at cmlflowers.com/kidsclub while supplies last, limit three per family. In-store pickup of the kits will be available Oct. 19-24.
Connells Maple Lee is encouraging moms and dads to send photos of their child’s completed project to firstname.lastname@example.org for sharing on social media.
A truck set out in early August on a journey into the future of foliage plants.
It’s destination was a 200-acre farm in the Blue Ridge Mountains of western Virginia, in the town of Stuarts Draft. On that farm lies a five-acre building that from above looks like nothing so much as a gigantic Lego piece (photo, below).
It’s a state-of-the art greenhouse where The Plant Co., which was birthed during the pandemic, is drawing on one family’s decades of floriculture experience and the latest technology in a quest to “reinvent the houseplant industry.”
Connells Maple Lee, along with its sister company in Pennsylvania, are the first florists to carry The Plant Co.’s products.
“It was amazing to see how many of our own people purchased the Proven Winners plants as soon as they came in,” said Cheryl Brill, Connells Maple Lee’s chief operating officer.
Connells Maple Lee first got to know The Plant Co. this spring when they attended the International Floriculture Expo in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Within weeks, the two companies were trading visits, including one to the massive greenhouse in Virginia, which opened in 2020.
“This is all great stuff,” recalled Connells Maple Lee CEO Tom Royer, upon seeing the plants.
Royer noted that in the past 30 years, mass marketers began offering foliage plants. Florida growers either catered to those customers, turning plants into mere commodities, or went out of business altogether.
The result was plants that weren’t as special as they once were. That left fertile ground for The Plant Co., the brainchild of founders and brothers-in-law Jason Van Wingerden and Frank Paul.
Just as four generations of Royers have made the family name synonymous with flower shops, the Van Wingerden family is deeply rooted in the greenhouse trade. It began with Aart and Cora Van Wingerden, who arrived from Holland in 1948 and started a greenhouse business in New Jersey, spawning many other similar enterprises.
Jason Van Wingerden, a grandson of Aart and Cora, worked at Green Circle Growers in Oberlin, Ohio, which Jason’s father started in 1968. Green Circle comprises 150 acres of indoor growing space, making it one of the largest greenhouses in the United States. Frank Paul was Green Circle’s former head grower of orchids.
The brothers-in-law settled on western Virginia for its climate, proximity to interstates 81 and 64, and high-quality well water, said Ben Wright, The Plant Co.’s national account manager.
The elevation in the Blue Ridge Mountains means warm days, cool nights and “good, consistent quality growth year-round,” Wright said.
The Plant Co.’s products begin as tissue culture in test tubes, arriving from labs around the world, before they are rooted in soil in the greenhouse. Tissue culture makes the plants cleaner and less prone to disease.
Ease of care and use
The greenhouse’s 21-foot ceilings keep plants cooler, as do metal poles that are powder coated white to absorb less heat.
Thirteen layers of sand and gravel sit below capillary mats. Plants are watered from below through the mats, then the water drains back into holding tanks so it isn’t wasted.
Carbon dioxide from the greenhouse’s high-efficiency natural gas boilers is captured and pumped into the greenhouse to encourage plant growth.
The plants are promoted for their quality but also for their ease of care and use. The plants are sold with tags that include the variety name, genus and species and information about where to use them within a room and how to care for them.
The goal is to embolden consumers who haven’t had success with plants in the past.
“And so they kind of discover that green thumb,” Wright said.
If hot summer weather doesn’t make you yearn for fall, then Connells Maple Lee Flowers & Gifts’ annual name-the-arrangement contest surely will.
The new all-around arrangement features an autumnal color palette: lavender glass vase, orange rose and orange carnations, purple statice, red alstroemeria, sunflower. It measures 14 inches high and 11 inches wide.
The arrangement has a product number, but Connells Maple Lee is asking for help with a name.
One winner and one runner-up will be selected from entries received by Connells Maple Lee and its sister company in Pennsylvania. Both the winner and runner-up will receive the arrangement (retail value $34.99) as their prize.
The arrangement will debut this fall and will be available in all stores and as part of Connells Maple Lee’s direct-ship program serving the Lower 48 states.
To view the arrangement and enter the contest, visit cmlflowers.com/contest. Limit one entry daily per email address, through Aug. 5.
Family-owned Connells Maple Lee (cmlflowers.com) has stores at 3014 E. Broad St., Bexley; 2033 Stringtown Road, Grove City; and 8573 Owenfield Drive, Powell.
We’ve compiled some of them below. We hope you enjoy this behind-the-scenes look into the dynamic nature of a flower shop.
Superman wears a red cape on his back. Connells Maple Lee designers have something similar, except they wear it on the front.
It’s an apron, and its pockets hold all the tools they need to be floral super heroes: a knife to cut flowers; scissors to cut thicker stems or ribbon; calculator to add flower prices; pen/pencil to take notes from a customer; highlighter to mark special delivery times and other can’t-miss information; permanent marker to identify the contents of boxes before they are packed away; even a mini-screwdriver in case something needs tightening.
Aprons are embroidered with the Connells Maple Lee logo and have a place for a name tag so customers can identify the designer and how long he or she has been with the company.
The tape at the top of these vases looks like a game of tic-tac-toe, doesn’t it? It’s a tape grid, and it helps us space flower stems evenly. It also provides support to the stems so they stand tall and look their best.
We use three types of tape depending on the color of the container we are using: clear tape for glass, white tape for white containers, and green tape for baskets and other dark non-glass containers.
The reason for the different colors is that we want our customers to focus on their beautiful flowers and not the tape.
Those green blocks in the photo are called floral foam. The foam holds cut flower stems in place to make arrangements look pretty. It also holds water so the flowers last as long as possible.
If you use scissors for craft projects at school or home, you might have a future working in a flower shop! We use several different types of scissors in our stores. Some are just for cutting flowers, some are made to cut thicker stems such as evergreens or lemon leaf, and others are just for cutting ribbon. We never use ribbon scissors on flowers because the blades would get dull and wouldn’t cut the fabric straight.
No matter what you do with scissors, it’s always important to use them safely.
If you play soccer or baseball or another sport for a team, then you probably wear a uniform. Maybe it includes a shirt with your team’s name on front and your number on the back.
Connells Maple Lee employees are part of a team, too. They might not be kicking or throwing balls, but they are constantly in motion. They practice how to make beautiful arrangements so they are ready for their big games, such as Valentine’s Day or Christmas.
They wear uniforms, too. They wear the Connells Maple Lee logo on their shirts because it helps to make each employee feel and work like part of a unified team. It also makes it easy for customers to know who they can ask for help.
When we sell flowers, we put them in pretty plastic wrap. It’s kind of like when you wear a coat or sweater: the wrap helps keep the flowers warm and protects them from the wind when they go outside. The wrap also makes the flowers look extra special, like a gift.
Our delivery vans and the men and women who drive them are crucial to the success of our business.
Once one of our designers creates a gorgeous flower arrangement, it’s up to our drivers to deliver them safely and on time. Of course, the flowers have to look as good as they did when they left the store, which can be a big challenge when it’s really hot or cold or stormy.
Our drivers might be the only Connells Maple Lee employee whom customers see if they ordered over the phone or online. So we have to hire people who are safe drivers but also happy and friendly and keep their uniforms and vans clean because they represent our company.
Drivers have a lot of responsibility, but they also have the good fortune to deliver presents of flowers to people.
Working, commuting, paying bills, and tending to family demands.
If there’s too much on your to-do list, you might want to scrap it altogether and start over with a single item: get flowers. Research from the University of North Florida revealed that the presence of flowers can reduce stress, according to the Society of American Florists, of which Connells Maple Lee is a member.
“The findings show that people who lived with flowers in their homes for just a few days reported a significant decrease in their levels of stress and improvements in their moods.”
One-third of people are stressed every day; women are particularly affected, with one in four of them experiencing stress multiple times daily.
“Our findings are important from a public health perspective,” said lead researcher Erin Largo-Wight, associate professor in the university’s department of public health, “because adding flowers to reduce stress does not require tremendous effort to generate a meaningful effect.”
The Society of American Florists offered these tips for using flowers “to help relax and rewind”: Experience flowers: Walk into your local florist and take a look around. Just the sight and smell of the natural beauty of flowers will put you at ease. Ask your florist to show you what’s in the cooler so you can learn about new varieties, colors and design styles. Find peace: If you are having a bad day when it seems like nothing is going right, try flowers in soothing, tranquil colors, such as blues, lavenders and pale greens. Place a small arrangement on your nightstand or in your bathroom, so you can experience the stress-relieving benefits of flowers right before you go to bed, and right when you get up to start your day. Help others: Sometimes the best way to relieve stress and the pressures of the day, is to do something nice for someone else. Here’s an idea: Go to your florist and buy two bouquets. Keep one for yourself, then take the other bouquet and “petal it forward” to a stranger on the street. You’ll be amazed at the reaction to your random act of kindness. Give yourself some joy: One great way to reconnect with joy and feel less stressed is to surround yourself with simple things that make you feel happy and loved, like a colorful bunch of flowers or a blooming plant. Flowers have the power to open hearts, and when your heart is open you are more likely to focus on the positive points in your day. Be a friend: Do you have a friend or loved one who could use a boost? Have flowers delivered unexpectedly to their door, and watch their ordinary day become extraordinary. It will make you smile, too. Color your world: Color therapists say colors really do affect our moods. The happiest color? Orange. It promotes optimism, enthusiasm, and a sense of uplift. Choose orange flowers — roses, gerberas, lilies, ranunculus, alstroemeria, tulips — to put on your kitchen counter or your work desk, and see your mood soar. Pepper your house with small doses of calm: When bringing home flowers from your florist, have a couple of small vases and containers available so you can place a few flowers in different parts of your living space. You’ll be amazed how many small arrangements you can get out of a single bunch of flowers, and you’ll have constant reminders to “stop and smell the flowers.”
The 2018 research from the University of North Florida builds on other university studies suggesting that flowers can help make people happy, strengthen feelings of compassion, foster creativity and boost energy.
Valentine’s Day often is described as the flower industry’s version of the Super Bowl.
It’s the No. 1 holiday for florists, similar in size to the Christmas season but playing out in a much shorter schedule.
In 2022, 22 percent of Americans bought fresh flowers or plants as gifts for Valentine’s Day, according to the Society of American Florists. Roses comprised 83 percent of those purchases, with red roses the top seller by far.
Just as the victorious football team’s most devoted fans will celebrate for days after the big game, the recipient of Valentine’s Day roses reasonably can expect to get a week or longer out of them by taking some simple steps.
KEEP ROSES COOL
Keep them away from a heat source, such as a vent or direct sunlight. While you are sleeping, you can place them in an unheated room or garage before putting them back on display in the morning.
KEEP ROSES WATERED
If roses arrive in a vase:
They will use more water than you think, so add water pretty much daily.
If after five days or so the water is getting dirty, pull the roses out, re-cut the stems and put them back in the vase with fresh water. Add a packet of floral preservative, available from your florist.
If the water is relatively clean, leave it alone as it will have some preservative left in it.
If roses arrive loose or in a box:
If the roses came with tubes on the stems, remove the tubes and re-cut the stems about 1 inch from the bottom. It is best to cut at an angle, which creates more surface area for water intake.
Place the roses in a vase with water that is room temperature to a little warm.
Add floral preservative to the water; you should have received a packet with the delivery.
Only change the water if it becomes noticeably dirty.
IF ROSES DON’T OPEN
Within a day or two, your roses should begin to open. If not, remove them from the vase, re-cut the stems at an angle, and return them to the vase.
If they still do not begin to open, re-cut the stems but this time also float the flowers in a bath of water for an hour or two to rehydrate them. Then return them to the vase. Most times, this will bring the roses around.
In one significant way, the Valentine’s Day/Super Bowl analogy falls short of the goal line.
Because unlike the football game, the best outcome for Valentine’s Day is when everyone – florist, giver and recipient alike – emerges a winner because those beautiful flowers lasted so long.
For the holidays, the song says, you can’t beat home sweet home.
But while the sunshine of a friendly gaze can warm your heart, home also is where you can find practical solutions to Christmas complications.
Take hairspray, for instance.
You can spray it on nail polish to make it dry faster as you get ready for the office party, or on wrapped presents to make them glossy and stand out.
Our favorite holiday hack, however, is the power and punch hairspray can give to your Christmas wreath.
A wreath’s round shape and evergreen composition are why it is a symbol of eternal life. Evergreen trees have long been revered for their ability to survive winter.
Of course, even a fresh wreath will become dry over time. A cut Christmas tree will lose needles, but you can slow the process by giving it daily drinks of water.
That’s not possible with a wreath. Instead, you can seal in the wreath’s moisture with hairspray. It acts like glue and holds the needles on.
For best results and to avoid messes, spray the wreath outdoors before you hang it on a door, window or wall. Hang it on the outside of a door (it can get cooked if placed behind glass) and out of direct sunlight.
If you want to be happy in a million ways, the song says, for the holidays you can’t beat home sweet home.
Connells Maple Lee has donated $980 to YWCA Columbus.
Family-owned Connells Maple Lee earmarks $10 from every sale of its Admiration arrangement for women’s causes.
“Our loyal customers make these contributions possible, for which we are grateful,” said Tom Royer, president and CEO of Connells Maple Lee. “Congratulations to YWCA Columbus for the meaningful work it does.”