The soft fragrance of fresh flowers greets customers walking into The Extended Garden Florist in south Asheville.

On a busy afternoon floral designer Terri Austin is arranging a bouquet of flowers for a customer while shop owner Maureen Jeffers is attending to business elsewhere.

Freshness and creativity is the hallmark of Jeffers’ shop.

Working with area growers as much as possible, Jeffers selects grade A flowers and plants, which are not only really beautiful, but “the freshest and the best,” she noted.

“When you want the best, you come to the florist,” Jeffers said.

Customers come to florists also benefit from the experience of designers who are artisans skilled at presenting flowers in a beautiful way, she added.

“We are the artists. We create the look,” Jeffers said.

She and Austin have combined experience of nearly 80 years as floral designers, she noted.

After 18 years of managing and owning The Extended Garden Florist, Jeffers has a long-standing relationship with many of her customers whom she says trust her to do the right thing for them.

Flowers are used to celebrate and honor life events from those that are joyful to others that are somber.

“It’s a business of emotions,” Jeffers said of her career in the florist trade.

“We get the pleasures of the new mother and baby all the way to a final tribute for a life,” she remarked.

With Valentine’s Day on the near horizon, Jeffers and her staff are preparing for a busy day or two—but not necessarily the busiest time of the year, which typically is Mother’s Day, she noted.

Ensuring fresh floral delivery is critical on Valentine’s Day because it’s a one-day event, and because of the fragility of roses, among the most sought-after flowers at this time.

While the vast majority of flowers and plants Jeffers purchases from local and nearby growers, most roses are imported from Ecuador and other South American countries with warm climates and a long growing season.

Roses need to be shipped carefully from the farms with a constant cold temperature in order to preserve them, Jeffers said.

The process of growing, harvesting and shipping roses also is labor intensive and relatively costly, especially at times of high demand such as Valentine’s Day, she explained. As a result, the cost of roses can be higher than usual around Feb. 14.

A lifelong attraction

Jeffers has been attracted to the florist business since she was a child and enjoyed visiting a shop near her home.

“When I was a kid, I used to walk to town and buy a carnation every week,” she said.

After growing up and settling in Florida in the late 1970s, Jeffers began working as an apprentice at a floral shop where she learned the business “from the bottom up.”

“Back then, that’s how we learned,” Jeffers said.

Since embarking on her career, Jeffers has seen some changes in what customers are buying. In the 70s there was a demand for what she calls “body flowers”—corsages that women used to wear for many occasions.

Creating body flower arrangements helped her learn all-important floral design, she said.

Along with creativity, mechanics are essential in the floral business to ensure that arrangements stay intact and don’t come apart, Jeffers added.

A busy shop owner, Jeffers’ days are filled with processing orders, coordinating deliveries and making purchases for her full-service shop filled with flowers, plants, vases and gifts such as stuffed teddy bears.

The Extended Garden Florist is at 167 Smokey Park Hwy. For more information, visit the website at www.theextendedgardenflorist.com or call 828-670-7575.

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