‘Make yourself bloom’: local florist helps make Valentine’s and other arrangements more personal

Published: Feb. 13, 2021 at 7:46 PM AKST
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As Valentine’s Day quickly approaches, florists everywhere are keeping up with the waves of people picking up last minute gifts for sweethearts nationwide. In Anchorage, Billie Saunders at Red Carpet Flower Boutique has flowers for sale, but she isn’t putting your bouquet together - you are.

“I give you all the supplies. You don’t need anything except clippers,” she explained.

It’s a DIY twist on flower arrangements that’s not intimidating at all. While Saunder’s isn’t arranging her customer’s bouquets aside from special occasions, she does do a livestream lesson on Facebook to show people how to make the arrangement chosen from their prepackaged kit.

Saunders said it was a slight adjustment to start doing the lessons from her home. When it was originally launched in 2015, Saunders said it was a fun class that she would host in people’s homes or businesses.

The pandemic has of course slowed that down. She said she’ll have the occasional small DIY class with her closest customers and friends here and there, but it’s mostly her talking into her webcam these days. She said she misses the big classes sometimes.

“To hear the chatter you know? ‘I can’t do this! I can’t do this!’ And then they pump each other up. ‘Oh, yours is looking so pretty!’ And then when they walk out they’re like, ‘yeah!’” she explained. “When it’s just myself talking to a camera, you have to fill in all that space,” she said, “and I have the gift of gab.”

She does. And it’s a skill she attributes to her years of professional clowning in the Lower 48 and Alaska.

Her clown alias is Skiddles. While in clown school, she said she gained some experience in the joy of learning how to do something she hadn’t before.

“Like when I was learning how to do balloon twists, I was stoked! So stoked when I could do two balloons! Twist two balloons together. I thought I was, you know, the bomb,” she proclaimed.

Saunders said behind all her jokes, giggles, and joyful personality, there’s a more somber story.

Red Carpet Flower Boutique Launched about six years ago, according to Saunders.

“It’s been intermediate. Like, grow, shrink, grow, shrink. Due to cancer,” she said.

She said it’s stage four breast cancer. She got her first diagnosis around Christmas time after being in business for just about a year - one of the busiest times for floral industry members leading through the holidays, Valentine’s Day, and so on.

Saunders went through treatment and got back to work as soon as she was able.

“And then I went full stream,” she said. “I was full functioning you know. I had a driver, so I actually employed (people). And then, it came back.”

She said doctors have told her she could only have up to six months. Saunders said she plans on proving them wrong.

“Color and live things are an element that feeds the soul. So I feel like if I die doing flowers, awesome. Cover me in flowers,” she said. “You get challenges no matter what. So what you do with it, you know, bloom. Make yourself bloom. That’s what I say.”

Saunders added that people can still buy flowers off of her website. The classes for the Valentine’s Day arrangements have already passed, but they are all recorded and available on her Facebook page.

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