Despite the chaos of a pandemic, spring is beginning to bloom. Local greenhouses and florists are working to capture the joys of the season and share them with their communities.

Greenhouses can remain open under both the Wisconsin and Minnesota stay-at-home orders. Florists are allowed to operate through deliveries and curbside pick-ups in both states.

To comply with safety guidelines, Cedar Hill Greenhouse in River Falls and Harrington’s Greenhouse in Ellsworth will be limiting the number of customers allowed into their buildings.

“We’re such a small business we don’t have a lot of customers at one time anyway, but we made our one-way aisles, we’re limiting the number of people,” Harrington’s owner Beth Auckland said.

Cedar Hill will be making use of all of its space. Two growing houses that are normally closed to customers may be opened if needed.

“We can spread them out even further and have more people shop,” owner Betty Lindahl said.

Both greenhouses have been busy this year since they opened at the end of April.

“Because we’ve only been open for a short time, I can tell you that the demand seems to be high this year,” Auckland said.

Auckland has received numerous calls from people asking how to start a garden for the first time and what they should plant. Vegetables have been popular at Harrington’s and at Cedar Hills. Lindahl said they have sold out of seed potatoes, and have had frequent requests for seeds and vegetables.

“We have seen an uptick in gardeners, so we're seeing a lot of new people that we haven’t seen before,” Lindahl said.

The recent sunshine and nice weather may be helping as well, Lindahl said.

“Typically when we open it rains and snows, that’s just how the springs are here,” she said.

Harrington’s created a new website to allow for online sales and is offering curbside pick-up and in-town deliveries.

Lindahl decided against creating an online ordering option for customers but is offering delivery and curbside as well.

Cedar Hill provides flowers for DIY wedding arrangements, but Lindahl said so far the weddings that she has booked are still on schedule.

Despite the pandemic spring has sprung and tulips are beginning to emerge. Photo by Rachel Fergus/RiverTown Multimedia.
Despite the pandemic spring has sprung and tulips are beginning to emerge. Photo by Rachel Fergus/RiverTown Multimedia.

Florists

With their retail stores closed due to state orders, florists are relying solely on deliveries and curbside pick-ups.

“The biggest thing for us right now is obviously we can’t allow people in the shop,” said Manda Olson-Wolfe of Shoots and Stems Floral in New Richmond.

Business was slow in the early days of the pandemic’s presence in the area.

“The two weeks building up to the order it was slow, it was much, much slower than normal. The thing that I kept hearing myself say was, ‘People aren’t going to buy flowers when there’s no toilet paper on the shelves,’” Olson-Wolfe said.

Now, though, Olson-Wolfe said the shop has been busy. Holidays that don’t normally bring a noteworthy increase in orders, including Easter and Administrative Professional Day, saw a surge in purchases.

“Now, since people have settled into this new normal I think because people are in their homes and aren’t allowed to go see family members or friends they want to have something that connects them to those people and flowers are a really good way of doing that, I think,” Olson-Wolfe said.

After seeing a jump in flower orders for Easter, florists are expecting Mother's Day to bring a surge of orders. Olson-Wolfe explained:

"I think that Mother’s Day is just going to be nuts, which is kind of terrifying because I would usually have way more people working."

People are still sending flowers to each other, Clementine Flowers owner Allison House said. The Red Wing shop is seeing about four to five orders a day.

It is also providing flowers and planting window boxes for the St. James Hotel in Red Wing.

“Obviously spring is happening no matter what happens,” House said.

The store did have to lay off a couple of employees, who then began working at Sargent’s Nursery, according to House. Shoots and Stems Floral has had to limit the number of people working at a time. Now only one person can work per room. A shop that would normally see at least two people working is now often staffed by Olson-Wolfe alone.

Weddings are the main source of business for Clementine Flowers. They were fully booked for this year, but March and April events have been pushed back.

“So it’s going to be a very busy fall when we do open again,” House said.

Some who are having small ceremonies are still doing pick ups for private weddings with fewer than 10 people present.

Like most people florists and greenhouse workers are trying to prepare their businesses for the coming weeks without knowing what the future will hold. Olson-Wolfe summed-up what many of us are currently feeling:

"I just have no idea what to expect. It’s all so unknown right now."