News & Politics

We Asked These Washingtonians Who They Were Buying Flowers For on Valentine’s Day

"If I don't [buy her flowers every year], I'm in trouble."

Whole Foods offered a dozen roses for $19.99. Photo by Sam Spengler.

The P Street Whole Foods at 5 PM on Valentine’s Day is not a place for the weak of heart. Men and women alike flooded the store to browse bouquets of flowers or select their own to be wrapped by the store’s arrangement team. There was no time for dawdling, and not a whole lot of space for breathing. Amazon did not switch up its discount for V-Day 2019: Like last year, Prime members were able to grab a dozen roses for $19.99, as opposed to $24.99 for non-members. After selling out quickly last year, the store ensured its roses were well-stocked this time.

Outside, the scene wasn’t much different. After braving the chaos inside, shoppers hustled out toting bouquets, giant heart-shaped balloons, ingredients for home-cooked dinners, and bottles upon bottles of special-occasion-priced wine. Most hurried to locked bikes and Ubers as if late for an important date (which they probably were). Thankfully, Washingtonian managed to stop a few less-rushed customers and ask them about their purchases.

Most flower-carriers were men on their way to cook dinner with their girlfriends, wives, and fiancées, and many were surprisingly thoughtful in their choices. Local, fiscally responsible, unique, and nice-smelling seemed to be common criteria. A few knew for certain that their SOs’ favorite was tulips, and ensured those were included in the bundle. Though some customers cited the Amazon discount as a factor in their floral section process, it didn’t seem to affect choices for many.

Below are eight valient suitors (and two family members) beaming on their way to Valentine’s plans.

Harlen Valenzuela bought multicolored roses for his wife and one year-old.

Harlen Valenzuela: Buying flowers for his wife and one year-old.
Why these flowers? “I was very tacky and went with the roses. I’ve gone to Whole Foods a lot, and just thought their prices were good.”
Do you traditionally buy her flowers on Valentine’s Day? “No, I’ve actually not bought her anything since she told me not to, and I regret that decision ever since. She told me not to buy her anything today.”
Will she be mad that you bought her these? “No, no, no. If I brought nothing home, that’s a different story.”
Romantic or cynic? “No, I’m the farthest thing from [a romantic]. I try and avoid the holiday if possible.”

Rick Baker bought tulips for his wife of 44 years.

Rick Baker: Buying flowers for his wife of 44 years.
What are you doing this year? “I’m cooking. I’m doing baked salmon with asparagus and a salad, and we are going to have some olives and some crackers and cheese for our appetizer and a bottle of wine. Very easygoing. She fractured her knee a couple of months ago, so we don’t get out much; that’s another reason we are having dinner at home.”
Why these flowers? “I bought them because they were local and they looked fresh. They haven’t opened up yet, so I figured I’ll put them in a pot at home and in a day or so, they will open up and be beautiful.”
Romantic or cynic? “I’m pretty middle of the road.”

Kevin Gomez looked for a unique flower for his girlfriend of over a year.

Kevin Gomez: For his girlfriend of a year and two months…or a year and seven months…something like that.
Is there a reason you picked out this flower? “Just to be different, I guess. Not roses.”
Are flowers a Valentine’s Day tradition? “I buy her flowers whenever; I don’t really wait for the holiday. She’s in school right now, so I’m just going to surprise her with dinner and a bottle of wine. She goes to Georgetown.”
Romantic or cynic? “It’s alright. It’s not a bad thing, I guess.”

Nick Cartier bought a dozen red roses for his traditional girlfriend.

Nick Cartier: Buying flowers for his girlfriend of two years.
Why these flowers? “They are traditional.”
Is she a traditional girl? “In this one respect, yes.”
What are you doing today? “I think we are going to the Russia House for dinner.”
Do you buy her flowers every year? “Definitely. If I don’t, I’m in trouble.”
Romantic or cynic? “I’m a little cynical myself, but if it makes her happy, it makes me happy.”

Phil and his fiancée try to avoid buying potted plants.

Phil: Buying flowers for his fiancée.
Why did you pick out these specific ones? “We are going to get married soon, and we are looking at flowers that we might have [at the wedding]. We both liked the idea of simple and green, and not a lot of flash. When I give her these, she’ll be like ‘Oh that’s kind of what we are thinking about for the wedding!'”
Do you normally buy her flowers for Valentine’s Day? “Sometimes. We’ve been mindful about cut flowers as not ideal, and so on our anniversary, we actually both got each other a potted plant by accident.”

Grant Bodnar was told not to buy flowers, but he thinks these cheap ones will be acceptable.

Grant Bodnar: Buying flowers for his girlfriend of a year-and-a-half.
Did you have a selection tactic? “She didn’t want flowers, so I got her cheap ones. She wanted a nice bottle of wine, which I got, but they had some cheap flowers, so I figured I’d grab those as well.”
Do you think she’ll be mad? “No, she’ll be happy. As long as the wine is there.”
Did you buy her flowers last year? “Yeah, she likes them, but she realizes they are pretty expensive. She likes other things. They aren’t her priority. They will be a nice surprise.”
Romantic or cynic? “Romantic.”

Chris Fagioli looked for unique, inexpensive flowers.

Chris Fagioli: Buying flowers for his girlfriend of just over a year.
Did you have a tactic when you picked these out? “Well, I’m cheap. I’ll admit those are the words I usually use. So I didn’t buy roses, but I did buy tulips because those are some of her favorite flowers. And I bought the hydrangeas because they smell nice.”
Do you have any plans today? “We are going to Da Hong Pao, which is a dim sum place.”
Is she expecting flowers? “No, because I’m cheap.”
Romantic or cynic? “I think it depends on the person you’re with. And this is a good one. This is the last one.”

Jacqueline Williams (right) buys flowers for her daughters (Sydni is on the left) every year.

Jacqueline Williams: Buying flowers for her two daughters (Sydni pictured here).
Did Sydni help you pick them out? “No. I just picked them because Amazon had the special. A dozen for $19.99.”
Do you normally buy your daughters flowers for Valentine’s Day? “Yeah, they love it. I give them flowers, get them a gift bag with a teddy bear, and some candy. Just to make them feel special. Valentine’s Day is about love, and who loves them more than their mom?”

Lisa Tegen bought a potted plant for her boyfriend—he’s the one with the green thumb.

Lisa Tegan: Buying flowers for her boyfriend of four years.
Why this flower? “He loves plants. He buys me stem flowers. This is a potted plant for him. He likes orchids. I typically don’t get him anything for Valentine’s Day. We don’t normally do gifts.”
Romantic or cynic? “I’d say I’m both, but I’m really more romantic.”

Mike Williams buys his mother flowers every year on Valentine’s Day.

Mike Williams: Buying flowers for his mom.
Do you normally buy her flowers? “Every Valentine’s Day since I can remember. She’s always been my Valentine. That’s how it’s always been since I was a youngin’. I want to show her I appreciate her.”
How do you pick them out? “I get whatever catches my eye. Different color roses this year.”
Are you going to see her tonight? “I’m on my way right now. Usually I just take her to dinner, watch some TV.”

These interviews have been edited and condensed.