Little Acre Flowers founder Tobie Whitman is commemorating two important milestones this Valentine’s Day: the one-year anniversary of her business and her new space in a U Street corridor studio. The only 100 percent locally sourced shop in the district, Little Acre Flowers specializes in florals from the mid-Atlantic region, and starting this spring, green thumbs and the florally inept alike can learn how to arrange bouquets at Whitman’s studio. On special occasions, such as Valentine’s Day, the studio will also host a pop-up shop in the space for customers to pick up orders.
Whitman is an expert when it comes to whipping up a bouquet, so with the holiday of love approaching, she offered us some advice to those who’d like to avoid gifting a last-minute squashed rose arrangement purchased outside of the Farragut West Metro. Here are her five tips for celebrating with local buds.
- Take notes from the farm-to-table movement. Farmer chic isn’t only trending on restaurant tables—Whitman advises that the “field-to-vase movement” is growing. “Peaches taste the best when you eat them in the summer, not when you get them in January, shipped from Chile,” Whitman says. “Flowers are the same way.” She reasons that locally grown flowers are fresher than those shipped to colder climates from the equator, meaning they’ll last long past your Valentine’s date.
- Focus on fragrance. Whitman calls Valentine’s Day a “sensual holiday”—as in, one where the senses should be engaged. To set the mood, she suggests picking a bouquet that retains its smell, unlike flowers grown industrially. “[Fragrance] is something that imported flowers often don’t have, because that actually has been bred out of them by the industry. Local flowers are even more sensory.”
- Reject roses. Though Whitman recognizes that “roses are the tradition,” she encourages lovebirds to dispel with the convention, which is stale in more ways than one. “There’s so much available for Valentine’s Day, there’s really no reason to have to buy imported, stale, old roses covered in pesticides from South America,” she says.
- Shoot for diversity. Instead of a trite bouquet, diverse options for a holiday arrangement may include local tulips, irises, and camellia foliage—waxy leaves with small pops of pink buds. Whitman accents bouquets with blooming branches like quince, cherry, and pussy willow. “I’m blown away, I’m actually even surprised myself by how much is available,” she says. Focusing on blooms specific to the Washington area, she says, creates something special.
- Don’t be afraid of a little cabbage. If the French can use “my little cabbage” as a term of endearment, then it should be right at home in a bouquet. Whitman urges Washingtonians to step outside the box with cabbage—or brassica, as it’s called in the flower world. It may sound weird, but the spiraling green leaves surrounding the purple heart of the plant are just as beautiful as any rose. And who doesn’t love a little roughage in their romantic bouquet?