While holidays such as Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day consistently rank as top flower shopping events, Memorial Day continues to be an occasion that warrants flowers, although anecdotally sales have declined for some while remaining robust for others.

Many florists and greenhouse keepers in the Waterville area admit that overall Memorial Day sales aren’t what they used to be, but May remains a busy month for them, as Mother’s Day and the onset of spring keep customers coming through the doors.

Others in the area still see Memorial Day as a major factor in their sales. Harlan Benner, a representative of Sunset Flowerland and Greenhouses in Fairfield, said Memorial Day remains the business’s second-biggest holiday after Mother’s Day. He said that’s generally because May is a busy month for them, beginning May 1 and into the first week of June, as people buy flowers and plants.

“It’s a 30-day thing,” he said.

A salesperson at Sunset who declined to give her name said that while the company remains busy for Memorial Day, it’s not always cemetery arrangements people are buying. She said many people are buying plants for their gardens, and sales of arrangements for cemeteries have gone down.

“I think it’s just been a lost tradition,” she said.

Benner said it’s hard to gauge when a customer might be buying an arrangement for a cemetery or for a personal garden, but he thinks many of the arrangements sold around this time do go to cemeteries.

Jeff Karter, owner of Waterville Florist and Formal Wear on Main Street, said Memorial Day sales have dwindled over the years. He believes that the likely reason is that fewer people honor the sentiment of Memorial Day, which pays tribute to those who died while in military service. Years ago, he said, people would spend half a day at the cemetery, planting flowers at family grave sites. Now, he said, more people are more interested in spending the long weekend at a lake house.

“Now it’s not what it used to be,” Karter said.

The decline in flower sales might not be felt across the board, he said, but in his experience fewer people buy flowers for Memorial Day. One reason, he surmised, is that people leave the area or the state and don’t come back.

“A lot of people who grew up here aren’t here anymore,” Karter said.

Roland Hallee, who will be taking over July 1 as the superintendent at Pine Grove Cemetery in Waterville, said he has noticed that most of the arrangements are placed in the newer section of the cemetery, toward the back. There are fewer flowers in the section by Grove Street, where headstones bear dates going back to the 1800s, he said.

“It seems like most of those families no longer have people around to take care of the flowers,” Hallee said.

While Hallee hasn’t been with the cemetery long enough to say whether the number of arrangements at graves has decreased or increased, he said he’s observed that most are potted plants or bouquets; and while there are some planted perennials at graves, that’s “the exception.”

At KMD Florist and Gift House on Kennedy Memorial Drive, manager and master florist Jesse Rowell said Memorial Day historically has been a busy time for the shop. It does fresh flower arrangements; red, white and blue flowers; wreaths; and containers with flowers. “It’s quite an abundance in the diversity of sales,” he said, adding, “Every- and anything you could ever think of.”

Like Benner, Rowell said the entire month of May is typically busy for KMD, with some nights going as late as 2 a.m. He said last week and this week have been busy, but the store will be closed Sunday through Tuesday. Memorial Day and Easter tend to be smaller holidays, he said, with the bigger ones being Mother’s Day, which can last an entire week, and Valentine’s Day, which is usually just a single day. Christmas is also a busy time, but Rowell said that stretches out over the month.

Lisa Rossignol, the owner of Vision Flowers and Bridal Designs in Oakland, said Memorial Day is a good holiday in terms of flower sales, but not one of the busiest. She said over the years, her business has had regular customers who stay true and buy flowers for Memorial Day, but it also has been fortunate to pick up new customers. Like others, Rossignol said May has been a busy month, but the business stays prepared.

Colin Ellis — 861-9253

[email protected]

Twitter: @colinoellis

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