Future bouquets at Lila B. Design.

All holidays have an economic component, and holidays devoted to love are no exception. This morning, the wholesale flower market in SOMA was packed solid with roses. Cars and trucks packed the blocks around it, cruising in circles and looking for that elusive parking space.

Lila B. Design, located in an inconspicuous loading dock on Folsom, is a relative newcomer to Valentine’s Day. Baylor Chapman, Lila B’s owner, built the business around designing flowers for events. Then Stable Cafe opened a few blocks down, and suddenly there were people around. They began selling floral arrangements to passersby whenever they had extra flowers.

Bouquets, bouquets.

This morning, Chapman and her employee Anna are staring at several buckets of flowers. Chapman tries to buy local and native plants as much as possible, but this makes Valentine’s a little tricky. The U.S. been trying to shift the Colombian economy from drugs to flowers for years now, and the resulting preferential trade deals for Colombian growers have taken out most of the rose growers in California.

There’s a small bundle from a grower in Petaluma, though, and a few other flowers from Watsonville. And there are flowering quince branches and viburnum flowers foraged from around the city by a quirky duo of sisters, and ranunculus so big and blowsy that there was a run on them at the market this morning.

“There’s an etiquette to it,” says Anna. “If someone is looking at a bucket, you aren’t really supposed to take flowers out of it before they stop looking. Supposedly.”

And — if you’re the sort of person who believes that flowers can depict complex emotions, is that a bit of ambivalence? — there’s a bundle of thistles, blue and spiky. Perhaps it’s more realism than anything else.

Lila B. will be serving up Valentine’s bouquets from its flower bar on Folsom between 17th and 18th on Saturday and Sunday afternoon, and all day Monday. All orders include delivery in San Francisco proper.

Heather Smith

Heather Smith covers a beat that spans health, food, and the environment, as well as shootings, stabbings, various small fires, and shouting matches at public meetings. She is a 2007 Middlebury Fellow...

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