Fragrant beauties

Published 10:59 pm Monday, July 21, 2014

Jodi Cobb takes an order at her shop, All A Bloom Florist and Gifts.

Jodi Cobb takes an order at her shop, All A Bloom Florist and Gifts.

Roses, lilies, carnations and … ragweed?

Jodi Cobb doesn’t even have to nose around inside the coolers in her West Washington Street flower shop to know which blooms will be the most fragrant.

“The white Oriental lilies are the most potent,” she says.

In fact, it’s not all that unusual for Cobb to receive special instructions on a customer order forbidding her to use lilies of any kind in an arrangement. It seems there are a lot of people allergic to lilies.

Jodi Cobb says one of the most difficult parts of her job is getting the flowers to go where she wants them to go.

Jodi Cobb says one of the most difficult parts of her job is getting the flowers to go where she wants them to go.

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(In a nearly incomprehensible bit of irony, though, ragweed turns out to be one of the most-requested fillers for adding texture and bulk to flower arrangements, and Cobb dutifully keeps a plastic vase full of Tidewater’s favorite allergen in a cooler, where it won’t cause a sniffle.)

Cobb, who opened All A Bloom Florist and Gifts in the spring, has a chance to smell all the flowers — their blooms are literally right under her nose as she prepares her customers’ arrangements. And she says she’s always a bit surprised that the prettiest roses — the ones that fill so many romantic orders — do not necessarily boast the strongest and sweetest aroma.

Then there are the carnations. Individually, they might be the flower of the junior-high boutonniere, but they are often arranged in groups to be used on funeral palls and wreaths. Thus, Cobb says, the smell of a carnation has always reminded her of funeral homes.

And that’s something she’s had some experience with, too, having spent part of the year prior to opening her Suffolk store as an employee of a body removal service — a job that clearly comes with its own distinctive set of smells. But even in that business, she found herself around flowers, as her “deliveries” then often had her traveling to funeral homes.

In fact, as far back as the age of 16, Cobb was working for a florist. She did flower deliveries at that time, but she took advantage of opportunities there and at a subsequent job to learn about arranging flowers, and her florist aunt “was a big influence — I watched her a lot.”

“I think it takes a little bit of imagination,” Cobb says of preparing flower arrangements. Working a stubborn flower into place in a vase she is preparing for an Internet customer, she adds, “Lord, it takes patience, because these things do not want to go where you want them to go; they don’t want to sit where you want them to sit.”

Still, she jokes, it might be the perfect job for her. “One reason I enjoy it is that I’m bipolar, and it helps with everything else.”

There’s a definite feeling of accomplishment when a customer (often a man) calls with vague instructions about an arrangement for his significant other, and the order turns out to be just right.

“Sometimes they just say, ‘Give me a fresh cut and make it happy or cheery or bright or summery,’” she says. “That allows me to use my imagination and do some beautiful stuff.”

Whether they arrive with a definite plan or allow Cobb to let her imagination take over, she believes folks who send flowers should get the benefit of the doubt. “If they have enough consideration or love to send flowers, then that’s enough,” she says.

“Everybody deserves flowers, and not just for birthdays, funerals and anniversaries,” she says.

Judging from that angle, her own husband, Brian, who makes deliveries for her when he gets home from his job with Norfolk Southern Railroad, must be perpetually in her good graces.

“My husband brings me flowers every day,” she laughs.