Time was, the florist was a nice old man, often with a heavy foreign accent and an apologetic manner, often accessorized by a wife (whose mastery of English was not always at the same level as his), and a variety of offspring, who tended to actually do most of the work. You saw the florist on the average of six times a year: when someone was getting married, sick, buried, or remembered, when The Garden Club was holding a flower show, and you needed raw materials, and often one or two unclassifiable times during the year, when someone needed an apology or congratulations or, simply a gift that didn't take up permanent house room. There would be a refrigerated case, full of indestructable carnations, roses, and chrysanthemums, sometimes iris, gladiolis, or one or another transient variety as well, and a selection of equally ironclad houseplants in the main showroom. There'd be a little desk with all kinds of note cards to send with your flowers, a selection of gifty-looking vases, and a general tone of subdued middle-class posh that was all the more appealing for being slightly seedy.

That was, of course, long ago. Then the Seventies happened.

For all the talk about "flower power", few hippies seemed all that interested in actual flowers. True, some of them would pick a few daisies and attempt to stick them into hats or hair, or rhapsodize about the beauty of dandelions, but by and large, they were more interested in painted, and/or smokable, not living flowers.

Then, somewhen during the early Seventies, the notion arose that plants could hear and respond to music and spoken words. Suddenly, anyone who was anybody simply had to have houseplants: the more baroquely countercultural went in for the indoor jungle effect, and every office slave suddenly began to sport a small, neglected pothos on their desks beside the inspirational statuette and the calendar with the "Footsteps" story on it. For those who fretted that such touches might be a bit cheesy in a newly-renovated loft space, lifestyle magazines showcased globe allium, bird-of-paradise, and other exotic-looking species; the orchid was as much a symbol of disco as strappy sandals and Danskin skirts.

Nowadays, florist shops reflect this generalized Boomer market: staffed by attitudinizing gay men, or more rarely, greying earth mother types, contemporary florists feature track-lit showrooms, arrangements involving esoterica as black tulips, bamboo stems, plum blossoms, and a general "if you have to ask..." attitude.

Luckily, the old-time florists are still there: their grandkids are staffing the "Flower Corner" at the local Ultramart. Sigh...