St. Sarkis and Flower Power

5 mins read
A person standing next to a vase of flowers on a table
Senior floral designer Richard Beltran has made magic happen at The Flowerman for 20 years. Photo: Victoria Thomas

Mark your calendar: February 14th is Valentine’s Day, just like last year and the year before. Don’t say we didn’t remind you.

But if you miss it again, St. Sarkis to the rescue. This beloved figure (also called St. Sargis, with a g in place of the k, the General) is the Armenian patron of love and youth, and his annual moveable feast falls anywhere between January 11 and February 15. This year, his feast day will be celebrated on February 16, giving you a 48-hour grace period to get those romantic ducks in a row.

We suggest pampering your special somebodies and unequivocally declaring your love with a pan of mouthwatering, made-from-scratch Armenian Monta produced by a young man named Sarkis Yegiazaryan at Su Beoreg & Monta Factory, with a small Pasadena shop at 1531 E. Washington Blvd., 626-398-1525, and a larger Monta Factory location shared with his mother in Glendale.

But let’s talk flowers. Contrary to what Gertrude Stein said, a rose is NOT a rose. As with Monta, a romantic bouquet must be created with intention, passion, and unwavering attention to every detail. That’s why Nancy Castañeda, floral designer for The Flowerman, says, “We need to talk about your Valentine’s Day flowers now, not on February 13th. Now.”

Of course, The Flowerman is cool under pressure. Castañeda recounts that the team recently received one day’s notice – 24 hours — to prepare a massive suite of floral arrangements for a formal funeral. She says, “We made it perfect, gorgeous, because we did it with a lot of love. Yes, it was tough to get it all together so fast, but we’re pros, and we just did it! I was happy to do it because it was the family’s last gift to their departed loved one.”

However, waiting until the last minute may mean fewer floral options for your Valentine.

Castañeda has created floral arrangements for the past 28 years at this fave destination of flora fans who also appreciate a bargain. Owner, Arcadia resident, and Local News Pasadena subscriber Lou Quismorio, a skilled floral designer with 30 years in the business, likes it that way.

Despite recent bumps in the minimum wage (with more on the way), along with the high price of gas burned by delivery drivers, The Flowerman offers many luscious arrangements in the $59.95 – $79.95 range, as well as a wide variety of other plants and blooms at manageable price-points. The secret is, of course, volume and repeat business.

Quismorio says, “We service everyone and keep the price as low as possible while still guaranteeing super-high quality. Our staple flowers, like carnations and mums, are still affordable. Our Pom-Pom Mum is still 99 cents. We are artists, and between my senior designers and me, we have a combined 150 years of flower experience right here. We take great pride in our work, and we want everyone to be able to afford the joy of flowers, not just on Valentine’s Day but also year-round.”

Today, the shop maintains several enormous coolers kept frosty enough for a family of penguins. He expects to create and deliver 250 – 300 rose arrangements for Valentine’s Day—and that’s just the roses!

Designer Castañeda says, “For men, red roses mean love. That’s the classic, timeless choice.” However, she suggests making your floral selection as unique and personal as possible.

“Ask the person who’s receiving the flowers about their interests. Even something as basic as a favorite color or a song they like.” She might create something less traditional for a bohemian free spirit, like a shabby-chic mix of wildflowers tousled into a country bouquet.

Or, for someone who loves the tropics, a sexy tangle of untamed jungle exotics. Nancy, you had us at Heliconia. Whoever’s reading this, package that posy with a round-trip ticket to Maui, and you’ll hear “I do!” or, even sweeter, “I still do.”

Epic street cred

Like a few other shops in our town, The Flowerman’s got epic street cred. The shop originally opened in 1928 at the corner of Foothill Boulevard and Sierra Madre Boulevard under the name Simpson’s Garden Town. Then came Quismorio.

“I moved to California from New York in 1989 and got hired at Simpson’s in 1991. After graduating from Cal Poly Pomona with a degree in entrepreneurship and a minor in human resources, I had several businesses, including a sushi restaurant in Beverly Hills, a production company in Hollywood, a real estate company, and an organic grocery store. In 2011, the owners of (what’s now) The Flowerman came to see me and made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. I agreed to purchase the flower shop I once dreamed of owning – to go back to my roots, to work in a field I know deeply, as it was my first job in New York on the weekends, starting when I was 13 years old.”

Floral meanings, back in the day

As a point of reference, perhaps consider yourself lucky you aren’t shopping for flowers circa 1820. Back in the day, before emojis ruled romance, many flowers were assigned specific meanings. This loaded, coded system was called floriography. And it was highly subjective. It was far trickier than simply having a designer curate a pleasing armful of blossoms based on their beauty. Misinterpretation was a risk.

For instance, the so-called Christmas Rose, actually a Hellebore, commonly had double meanings. According to the 1871 floral dictionary called “The Language of Flowers,” published by London’s Routledge Press, one meaning was “Relieve my anxiety,” something a suitor might send to a reluctant partner who’s playing hard to get. Unless, of course, the recipient misconstrued the flowers as the similar-looking Lenten Rose, which was linked to slander and scandal. Oops.

Also, consider that the small nosegay whimsically called a Tussie-Mussie in great-grandma’s day combined several types of flowers and, therefore, might send an unholy dog’s breakfast of mixed messages in a befuddling gesture of botanical passive-aggression.

Many flowers seemed to escape this duality. The name of the familiar garden Viola, known as a pansy, is actually a corruption of the French pensée, thought, as in, “I’m thinking of you.”

According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, hyacinths mean, “Your loveliness charms me.” Red carnations meant, “My heart aches for you.” But poppies intended “I am not free,” and white roses sent a simply grim statement: “I cannot.”

But in the 21st century, barring pollen allergies, it’s difficult to go too far wrong with sending flowers unless the enclosure cards get switched in transit (“Lana? Who the heck is Lana?”). A truly professional florist never lets this happen.

In addition to serving the greater Los Angeles delivery area, The Flowerman also delivers out-of-state and worldwide through what Quismorio calls reciprocating florists.

“We only deal with people that we research and talk to personally. We maintain these relationships so we can guarantee that every customer is happy with their flowers.”

The Flowerman stocks balloons and cards to further sweeten your floral message, and the shop’s Passionate Purple Tulips arrangement arrives with a golden box of gourmet chocolates. So, with equal props to Saints Valentine and Sarkis, now’s the time to put the “petal” to the metal and get your bloomin’ notion in motion.

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Victoria Thomas

Victoria has been a journalist since her college years when she wrote for Rolling Stone and CREEM. Victoria describes the view of Mt. Wilson from her front step as “staggering,” and she is a defender of peacocks everywhere.
Email: [email protected]

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