When Potomac Floral in Silver Spring got the call placing an order for 25,000 long-stemmed red roses, its staffers were shocked.
“It was the largest single rose order that we’ve ever received,” says Jeff King, a sales team manager and public relations specialist for the floral wholesaler who handled the order. King instantly recognized the value of finding a way to procure the blooms. “My first reaction?” he recalls, “Let’s see what we can do to make this work.”
The order had come in from the office of Paul Hogarth, an associate campaign director at Daily Kos who handled an unusual fundraising project for the liberal blog. The goal was to raise money in order to deliver red roses—10,000 in fact—to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
“We wanted to express our love for all the work she does and how hard Speaker Pelosi worked to get a Democratic majority,” Hogarth says.
The call for donations that Daily Kos sent out through its newsletter subscription service raised money at an astonishing rate. According to the Washington Post, within just a few hours they had the money to purchase thousands of roses. They ended up sending 25,000 roses at 89 cents a stem, or $22,000. And that doesn’t include the cost of a local florist processing the shipment for delivery.
So how exactly does one procure 25,000 long-stemmed red roses in a pinch in the DMV? In this case, Daily Kos managed to go from collection to delivery in just a few days. Though in hindsight, Hogarth does suggest working just a few more days into your timeline. (“If I could do it all over again, I’d give it a minimum of a week,” says Hogarth.)
The order was put in to Potomac Floral Wholesale this past Friday morning. By Tuesday, King had called to let Daily Kos know that 10,000 flowers had arrived from South America. They came in through Florida and were driven up the coast to DC. According to King, red roses come in 20-50 different varieties with names like “Red Paris” and “Sexy Red.”
By coincidence, the 25,000 destined for Pelosi were all of a single variety, “Freedom.”
Here’s the thing about ordering a large quantity of flowers wholesale: they don’t show up arranged in a cute vase. The blooms come straight from the fields, wild and packed into large cardboard boxes.
In order to make the flowers presentable for their Capitol Hill debut, Daily Kos hired Angela Brunson of Blue Iris Flowers in Eastern Market to process the blooms; That means picking them up, unpacking them, cutting the stems, removing excessive foliage, arranging them in buckets, and delivering them. Brunson began working on the flowers on the Tuesday that they arrived. “To my knowledge it was like an all-day, all-night process,” says King. “Someone had to work all night and get very little sleep.”
The following day, an additional 15,000 flowers arrived, and the first 10,000 were delivered to Pelosi’s office. Rather than overwhelm her office with the second delivery of 15,000 stems, Pelosi’s office asked Daily Kos to deliver the remaining shipment to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center Thursday morning. According to Daily Kos, Pelosi has made the choice to deliver excess blooms to the Walter Reed multiple times in the past. Potomac Floral was pleased with this arrangement, as they also donate flowers to Walter Reed annually. The arrangements go to patients and caregivers to take home.
The coordination of such a large gift went through Pelosi’s office, but it was the delivery to Walter Reed that was the more complicated gifting process, says Hogarth. Unloading buckets upon buckets of the red blooms created a sea of crimson “Freedom” roses at Walter Reed this morning, the choice of vibrant red making a powerful visual impact.
In selecting a flower that has come to epitomize big romantic gestures, the choice of bloom was intentional, says Hogarth. “Red roses is love.”