Roadside florists help tardy kids, both young and old, show Mom their affection -- and thoughtfulness

Last-minute shopping for gifts a tradition on this holiday, too


The cars line up before that first hymn begins at church, before Mom digs into that first bite of scrambled eggs, before the barbecues and buffets and kisses.

They're up early for a Sunday morning, but really, many admit, they're running late. These are the last-minute Mother's Day shoppers, scouring the few open stores and roadside stands for the sort of potted petunia or bouquet of roses that says thank you for a lifetime of doing laundry, cooking dinner and always putting someone else first.

Mother's Day is one of the busiest days of the year for florists, with many shoppers ordering arrangements weeks in advance. But because a lot of shops aren't open for business Sundays, the late-comers ended up yesterday under the Royal Farms gasoline sign along Mountain Road in Harford County.

Inside a striped yellow tent that opened Saturday and closed yesterday were rows of potted roses, hyacinths, carnations, petunias and daisies - a wide assortment that made even last-minute shoppers appear as if they had put a lot of thought into the purchase.

Merv Hankey, a Chesapeake City contractor, showed up just before brunch with his wife, Carol, and bought a potted arrangement for his mother.

"He's last-minute, always has been," Carol said of her husband of seven years. "He's like this every Mother's Day. Matter of fact, he's like this for just about every occasion."

Cindy Blizzard, who lives in nearby Joppatowne, told her two children to keep an eye out for a tent because one or two usually spring up nearby. Luckily, her husband, Troy, already spotted the Royal Farms tent being set up earlier in the week.

So before they made the trek to Grandma's house in Jarrettsville, the family stopped by so 7-year-old Elaine and 4-year-old Daniel could pick out a flower. Elaine chose an orange Shasta daisy because it matched her dress.

The children already gave Cindy her Mother's Day present - three handmade cards. Daniel made his mother two cards because, he said, "I want her to be happy."

For newly blended families, a last-minute potted plant seemed like the perfect way to say thank you.

Harford County Deputy Sheriff Chris Rothlingshofer pulled up in his cruiser shortly before 10 a.m. to buy a lily. His children spotted the tent and wanted their dad to buy a flower so they could give it to their soon-to-be stepmother, Tricia.

"She works two jobs, but she always finds the quality time to take them to the playground, read stories and teach them to dance," he said. "My perspective is that they've come to love her as much as they love their mother."

Marvin Hall was disappointed that the tent didn't have more single-stem roses; he was hoping to buy one for his fiancee before she began her waitress shift at noon. The trucker settled for a potted rose - after all, it's the thought that counts. Hall had taken her out to dinner the night before; he was planning to let his fiancee's children take credit for the flower gift.

"I just thought, before she gets up this morning to go to work, I'll put a flower on the table," he said. "She's a wonderful person, a very good mom."

The tent wasn't the only place with a thick last-minute Mother's Day crowd. The Wegmans flower department in Hunt Valley opened at 7 a.m. with nine staffers in place. By 8:30 a.m., department manager Pam Kilishek reported, the department was busy. The top sellers were bouquets of lilies and roses, with hanging baskets of petunias, geraniums not far behind.

Kilishek, who worked in a retail flower shop for 21 years, said the last-minute rush didn't surprise her.

"Traditionally, it's typical to wait until Mother's Day," she said. "They're on their way to visit their mom, they're taking her to brunch or dinner, and they're picking up flowers or plants on the way."

Throughout the Eastern Avenue Home Depot, staffers erected pretty displays of tulips with "Happy Mother's Day" signs advertising sale prices. But Greg and Jennifer Murray preferred the fresh blooms in the nursery - a hydrangea for her grandmother and a potted petunia bowl for his mother. In a couple of hours, the Bel Air couple would host a barbecue at their place for their mothers.

"I have a rack of lamb marinating now - I do prepare. But I'm a last-minute shopper, yes," Greg Murray said.

Back at the tent, Fallston residents Charles and Mary Jo Walden say they didn't forget Mother's Day - how could they? They just wanted to pick up something fresh before church for Charles' mother, Ruby, who lives in Dundalk and was expecting them at her home later that day.

"We're still early," Charles Walden said. "The last minute? That would be, like, 4 p.m."

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