Shakeela Doskas has completed the greenery on her centerpiece and proceeds to the final stages.
Photo by Shirley Ruhe.
Shakeela Doskas is surrounded by the tools of her trade — green picks, wire, tape, and the branches of English boxwood for the Christmas tree she is creating for "if you don't have the space for a real tree." The long workspace is cluttered with spools of sparkly ribbon mixed with greenery, an assortment of holiday decorations, clippers, cans of spray and multi-sized containers. The floor is blanketed with discarded rose petals, bits of stems and branches.
Doskas begins with a 10-inch red and white pot filled with a green wet oasis (foam brick) for inserting the branches. "The oasis retains water so if you water every week this tree will be good until after Christmas." First she places the tallest 15-18" branch in the middle. "We don't want it to be too high for the table." She will eyeball how many smaller branches she will need as she builds the tree from the bottom. In about half an hour she will have a completed design.
Doskas is ready for the next step. She twirls tape around small sticks and fastens them for stability to red gift decoration ornaments, then places six on the tree branches and finishes the piece off with two loops of Christmas plaid ribbon. One final spray of glitter to add a shine. Doskas has worked at The Virginia Florist at Belle View for 18 years. She started doing this while going to college and has been doing it ever since.
Across the table, Keiko Cox is creating a hurricane centerpiece with a red Christmas candle. She places Cedar, then Frasier fir, pine and boxwood around the glass hurricane. "This branch is too big so I'll snap it in two." She sprays the leaves with Ultra Leaf Shine. One at a time she places silver decorative leaves around the base of the piece. "I like it more flat for the table and I don't want to place the silver too close to the candle."
Cox adds a few white lilies "for a clean look." She picks up a cremon mum and sprays out the pollen with Clear Crowning Glory before inserting the mum into the arrangement. "I like these mums; they are smaller and more compact." A glittery spray settles over the centerpiece and it's ready.
Next to Cox at the table Jose Capestany has just finished an arrangement for a regular customer. He had started with a large white vase and added some branches of Curly Willow. He had added stalks of red ilex berries. "This is nice to support the amaryllis. Finally some cedar and pine to fill it in.
"I am familiar with the house so I know the proportions. It goes on a credenza behind the sofa. I do a new arrangement every week." Capestany has been at The Virginia Florist for two years. He came there after working at the Watergate Florist for 32 years before it closed.
Earlier in the morning, Capestany had designed a several-foot-high arrangement for a holiday party at the Old Dominion Boat Club in Alexandria later in the day. "See the magnolia is very dramatic." He says, "Sometimes the big pieces are too tall for the van and I have to put in the final touches at the location."
Across the table Ledis Reyes is arranging a centerpiece with a 4-inch glass cube using lilies and Christmas greens, noble fir and pine. She adds a bit of Dusty Miller around the edges and finishes it by combining red tulips and roses with white lilies and hydrangea. She says a lot of people love lilies and Christmas greens. Reyes has created this to sell in the front of the store but says they also do a lot of special orders. Doskas speculates they each do 20-30 pieces a day. She says she and Capestany recently produced 100 pieces for the Army Navy Club at Thanksgiving.
Sometimes people make special requests like wreaths with fresh fruit or wreaths made out of herbs. The designers all agree the best is when someone says, "Just send something. Up to you, designer's choice." Capestany says he has one woman who has several large parties a year. "She doesn't have a budget and she brings in her vases or heirloom silver and Shakeela goes to town."