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  • Design Room: Designs That Make Scents
    By Rich Salvaggio, AAF, AIFD, PFCI
    Teleflora Vice President of Floral Publications

    You're surrounded by luscious perfumes every day, so you probably don't even notice them. But your customers do. Send some of this fragrant ambiance home with them by incorporating scent in your designs.

    "It smells good in here!"

    How often do customers make this observation upon entering your business? If yours is like most shops, customers walk in and are treated to the subtle, clean-air scent of living plants, the freshness of cooled cut flowers, and various other aromas from candles or potpourri.

    In the eighteenth century, bouquets of fresh, fragrant flowers had a useful function in the home and as fashion accessories; they were carried or placed about the home to cover up unpleasant smells.

    In the nineteenth century, flowers were symbolic and carried a message to the recipient, and the scents of flowers helped to create the remembrance associated with each bouquet.

    Today, much of the lore associated with flowers and their fragrances is lost, but scents are still important for creating mood and stirring memories.

    Selling Scents

    Scent is one of the selling tools you have that you might not be using to its fullest effect simply because you've grown used to being around various aromas. Most florists know to place fragrant blooms near the entrance of their shops to entice passersby or draw customers further inside, but don't often design with fragrance in mind.

    People with allergies may not appreciate a scented arrangement, so it's prudent to use heavy fragrance only at a customer's request. Familiarize yourself with different flower fragrances so that you can order a good selection of scents, from a hint of spring to a bounty of summer perfumes.

    Flower Choice

    Since some flowers are strongly scented and others have a more subtle perfume, the type you use depends on the effect you wish to achieve. A bouquet or arrangement meant to permeate the room would call for flowers known for their heavy scents, such as rubrum lily, stock, carnation varieties, phlox, peony, or lilacs.

    In most cases, it's best to use only one fragrant variety in an arrangement so that the fragrance is a welcome detail rather than an overwhelming feature. You don't want fragrances to fight with each other, either.

    Most flower fragrances are minimal when they are refrigerated and the scents become more apparent as the flower reaches room temperature. Flower scents range from light to heavy, and also offer a range of "flavors."

    Here are some of the commonly available varieties and descriptions of their particular scents:

    • Bouvardia: Slightly spicy scent. Light.
    • Carnations: (Usually white, and some fancy hybrids) Spicy, sometimes strong.
    • Daffodils: Sweet, light scent.
    • Freesia: Subtle spicy, pepper scent.
    • Genista: Sweet perfume scent, reminiscent of spring flowers. Strong.
    • Lilacs: Sweet, perfume scent. Somewhat strong.
    • Peonies: Sweet, almost a rose fragrance. Light.
    • Phlox: Sweet, perfume scent. Light.
    • Roses: Few hybrid roses have a scent. Strongly fragrance rose varieties include some lavender roses and some varieties of yellow. Peach roses sometimes have a light spice scent and some reds may have a sweetened tea aroma. Check with your wholesaler for specific varieties that may have fragrance.
    • Rubrum lilies: Pungent sweet scent.
    • Snapdragons: Sugary candy scent. Very light.
    • Stephanotis: Tropical, gardenia-like scent.

    Other Scent Sources

    You don't always have to rely on flowers to add fragrance to a design. Various scented gift products may do the trick. Try some of these:

    • Commercially produced sachets. Check with your gift wholesalers for pre-made paper or fabric sachet packets. These are usually printed with attractive graphics and/or sentiments, and are filled with a scented material (usually potpourri or wax chips). Tuck them into wrapped bouquets or on a card caddie in an arrangement.
    • Potpourri. If you carry potpourri in your store, you could make your own sachets to include in arrangements. Just cut a square of tulle, place potpourri in the center, and tie it up with a length of ribbon. Attach the sachet to the handle of a basket or secure it on a wood pick. You can also add some scent to a dried or permanent flower arrangement by sprinkling potpourri in the bottom of the container around the foam.
    • Fragrance sprays. Commercial home and floral fragrance sprays can be applied to fresh or permanent arrangements as well. Spray fragrance on a bow or on the foliage for lasting scent.
    • Candles. Use scented tapers or votive candles in fresh designs.

    Eliminating Unwanted Odors

    There are unfortunately some flowers and foliage that may have undesirable odors. Limonium, for example, sometimes has a fishy or ammonia smell. This is a good case for using fragrance sprays.

    • Cinnamon or lemon scents are best at neutralizing limonium's unsavory smell.
    • Boxwood, when shipped in bulk, may have a swampy smell when it is unpacked. A good remedy for this is to soak it for a few hours in three parts water and one part white vinegar.

    Beyond Pretty Flowers

    By adding scents to your designs, you can go beyond the merely visual feast for the eyes and offer customers a veritable banquet for the senses. Watch to see if the more fragrant arrangements sell first and/or more frequently. You might happen upon a scents-ational profit booster.


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