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Mum’s the word: Florists describe evolution of homecoming staple

By Erika Pedroza | Published Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Mums have come a long way.

Gone are the days of even-cut ribbons draping from a fresh flower pinned just below the wearer’s clavicle.

Instead, various lengths of boas, lace, bling and glittery monograms hang from a silk mum – or two, or three.

SPIRIT – In addition to the traditional mums and garters, florists spread homecoming spirit with decorated spirit sticks and candy arrangements. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Local florists have watched the evolution of the homecoming tradition. Judy Dickey, owner of Celebrations Florist in Boyd, remembers the nights she’d stay up wiring and taping fresh chrysanthemums into pre-made arrangements.

“You would get everything with the ribbons and trinkets made up weeks ahead of time, but then you’d go in the night or so before the homecoming game to add the flowers and hope they didn’t shatter,” she said. “Those flowers do shatter. That’s why a lot of wholesellers have stopped carrying them. They are hard to find.”

Because the flowers had to be stored in the fridge to keep fresh, the ribbons that draped from the base were shorter in order to fit in a box.

“And they didn’t have nearly as much as they have now,” Dickey said.

When girls in the early 90s wanted to keep their mums to hang on their walls, the shift to silk flowers took place.

Mum Evolution

MUM EVOLUTION – Mums made by designers at Decatur’s Main Street Florist and Gifts, (from left) Minie Aguero, Karen Weser, Teresita Fraga and Karen Fox, include pops of color, animal print and lots of bling. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

“That’s been a gift for us,” Dickey said. “We can personalize the mum so much more. Fresh flowers couldn’t support very much on them, but you can glue just about anything on the silk ones. And they come in all different sizes – from tiny to gigantic. It makes for some of the cutest mums.”

Karen Fox has seen that personal element take shape in the eight years she’s owned Decatur’s Main Street Florist and Gifts.

“When I first bought the store, all the mums we did were custom orders,” she said. “They went all the way down to their shoes, but they were a lot more plain.”

CREATIVE OUTLET – Designers at Celebrations Florist in Boyd (from left) Judy Dickey, Peggy Crooks and Staci Erwin prepare for the creative outlet available during homecoming mum-making season. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

In the last four years Fox – like Dickey – has seen the incorporation of pops of bold colors and animal prints; ribbons outlining the student’s involvement in band, color guard, volleyball, etc.; and “lots of bling.”

“Now they’re shorter and fuller – both the heads and the tails of the mum,” Fox said. “Back then, we used a precise amount of each ribbon that were all cut the same length. They looked a lot the same. Now, everyone’s is different. They are a lot more layered. We use various sizes of ribbons in the tails.”

And different textures of ribbon, too.

“Burlap and lace are used in wedding decor and have gone onto mums,” she said. “Boa was the new thing for a few years.”

One of the most elaborate creations Fox took on was an over-the-shoulder piece that reached down to the girl’s shoes and “had everything you could put on it.”

“It cost close to $400,” she said. “It was humongous. We’ve also done some that have three mums arranged to look like a heart that has a ribbon that goes around the girl’s neck and is worn in the center, as opposed to being pinned on the side and pulling the shirt all out of whack.”

Before the economy tanked, Fox said it was not uncommon for parents and dates to drop a substantial chunk of change for a mum.

“Maybe not to that extreme,” she said. “But $200 was nothing. People wanted to outdo each other. Nowadays, we’re doing more work for less money.”

She noted that last year the florist sold more garters than mums. Although she says it’s too early to really tell because of the last-minute nature of the demand, it seems like this year’s requests lean more toward the traditional.

“With a pop of color and a lot more bling,” she said. “There is a lot of bling – rhinestones, anywhere you can put bling, there’s bling.”

Fox and her designers – Karen Weser and Minie Aguero – also note that their creations include practical elements.

“We try to use things that can be utilized after, like bows that can be detached and worn in the hair and jewelry,” Weser said. “I once made a mum that was like a mum within the mum. A part of it could come off and could be worn to any game. People want something practical.”

Dickey said her florists fulfills many requests for other, less conventional, homecoming garb – spirit sticks, megaphone bouquets and the like. Fox’s shop also offers less traditional items like homecoming hairpieces, corsages/bracelets for babies and even rings.

“It’s not just mums,” Weser said. “It’s stuff that the younger kids like. These days, homecoming wear is more popular with the younger kids – elementary to middle schoolers. Back then, if you were going steady with someone, you got a mum, and it was almost exclusively high schoolers. Now, by the time they get to high school these kids have had so many mums, it’s not such a big deal. But we still get plenty of orders for high schoolers.

“Those are the ones that come in the last minute – especially the boys because they wait to see if they’re still together with the girl,” she laughed. “They don’t want to order too [far] in advance because they might break up before then.”

Because of that last-minute nature of order placements and the fact that this year five Wise County schools – Alvord, Boyd, Bridgeport, Decatur and Paradise – will have homecoming the same day – next Friday, Sept. 20 – both florists have been busy preparing for the slam. (Homecoming festivities for Chico and Northwest aren’t until Nov. 1.)

“That is a logistical nightmare,” Fox said. “That has never happened. We’ve had two, maybe three … We started taking orders when school started, and we’ve been making them since the end of the summer. Hopefully that will help.”

And despite the stress and craziness that await them in the next few weeks, both florists are excited for mum season.

“It’s a fun time,” Dickey said. “It’s a southern thing; it’s a fun thing.”

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