While the hankie drop is the iconic symbol for the end of Session, nothing says Opening Day like the spectacle of the House and Senate chambers overflowing with floral tributes on the members’ desks.
Behind each of those arrangements, dish gardens and baskets is a florist. And for most of them, the florist was Elinor Doyle.
Just to be clear, there was an Elinor Doyle, who started the business in 1926, but she has been dead for nearly half a century. Her picture, however, hangs in the Tennessee Street storefront, keeping watch over owner Roxie Anne Clark and Liz Santini (who has worked there for 23 years) who will be preparing hundreds of arrangements before the Session starts Tuesday.
A deluge of work after a busy Christmas season because of the even-year early Session isn’t a particularly unique challenge, Clark said.
“We are coming out of the holiday season, but it’s not necessarily any worse than having it a little after Valentine’s Day, so it’s kind of the same thing,” she commented.
Valentine’s Day is the No. 1 busiest day of their year, but at Elinor Doyle Florist, the start of Session is definitely No. 2. The team will work long hours over the weekend before Session begins to assure their flowers arrive in peak form. They’ll start with dish gardens, which will get a colorful addition of red mini carnations and white cushion mums right before delivery Monday. (An aside to the aides: Those gardens will last throughout Session if they’re watered weekly and kept in a not-too-sunny spot.)
Florida’s chiropractors will again be gifting each member of the House and Senate with sunflowers. Orchids are on hand, a favorite gift from lobbyist Ron Book, who always sends a large basket of the tropical blooms to his daughter, Sen. Lauren Book. Other flowers will be made into arrangements Monday, with an eye on a 5 p.m. deadline.
Clark said after 9/11, restrictions were put in place when the chambers were open for deliveries. All arrangements must be delivered between 5 and 7 p.m. Monday. Her entire family will be pressed into service, and it will probably take four trips with the company van to get all the orders delivered. “We’ve always been the last flower shop down there,” she said.
For most of its history, Elinor Doyle Florist was located downtown, in the shadow of the Capitol. But after she bought the business seven years ago, beset by high rent and a lack of parking, Clark moved to its current location, in the shadow of the Sheraton Four Points.
For the most part, the clientele moved with her. “Our business is word-of-mouth,” she said. “Everybody knows where to call.”
And if they ask for Elinor Doyle, the easiest answer often is: “Yes, may I help you?”