What’s Happening Feb. 11-17

Maura Whalen started Seattle floral design studio Casablanca Floral nine years ago but often jokes that “I’ve been doing it for 55 years.”

Raised in the same neighborhood as Martha Stewart and nurtured by an Italian grandmother who loved flowers and gardening, Whalen said, “Somehow all of us got a little bit of Martha in us.”

The florist has spent the past few weeks preparing for Valentine’s Day, one of her busiest times of the year.

“In many other parts of the world and even our country, it’s really thought of as an art,” Whalen said. “But there’s a lot of preparation, processing or conditioning before you even get to the art part of it.”

From sourcing flowers and picking them up to processing them, preparing Valentine’s Day arrangements for hundreds of Seattleites is a feat, especially given that Whalen sources most of her flowers locally (even from her own garden).

But sourcing goods for this Valentine’s Day has been especially difficult. Pandemic-related supply chain issues have affected the floral industry, too, and it’s been difficult for Whalen to find vessels for her arrangements.

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“I really try to find neat vessels — pottery, metal, what have you. A lot of my sources for that are probably stuck on a container ship somewhere,” Whalen said.

The primary focus of Casablanca Floral is long-term weekly or monthly subscriptions for floral delivery to homes and businesses, so one-off holidays like Valentine’s Day attract a multitude of new customers. In order to ensure she’s creating artful arrangements, Whalen asks for “a few adjectives to describe who you are gifting this to so every arrangement is unique and as personalized as it can be,” she said.

Casablanca Floral’s most popular Valentine’s Day arrangements are the Stunner ($150) — florals situated in a large glass, ceramic or tin vase often with orchids, specialty roses and unusual vines or blooms — and the Triple Play ($300), a subscription where you can choose three special occasions for Casablanca Floral to deliver a Stunner arrangement.

“We’re not just grabbing flowers and sticking them in a vase. You’re carefully hydrating them, feeding them at least 24 to 48 hours before they’re worked with so that they have time to be as plump and fresh-nourished as possible,” Whalen said. “All different flowers require different cuts and different types of conditioning.”

In addition to her work creating unique floral arrangements, Whalen has also spent time participating in the Northwest Flower & Garden Festival as a floral designer and instructor.

The Northwest Flower & Garden Festival, running until the eve of Valentine’s Day, has signified the start of Pacific Northwest spring for more than 30 years. This year, two dozen garden displays, over 90 seminars, live music, a wine tasting, thousands of marketplace treasures, local gardeners like Ciscoe Morris and more will be at the Washington State Convention Center.

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The Northwest Flower & Garden Festival returns with all the promising colors, inspiration and hope of spring

“Two years ago, I was one of the floral designers at Fleurs de Villes. I designed a mannequin, ‘Francesca.’ She stood proud and sultry for the full week of the garden show,” Whalen said.

This year at Fleurs de Villes, rose-inspired blooming pink mannequins created by local florists will support breast cancer research.

The Northwest Flower & Garden Festival (705 Pike St., Seattle) runs Feb. 9-13. Visitors 12 years and older must show proof of full vaccination or negative coronavirus test within 72 hours of the event. Masks are required indoors. Find more information at gardenshow.com.

Today, as Seattle-area florists gear up for both Valentine’s Day and the Northwest Flower & Garden Festival, Whalen is advocating for others to see value in floral art design. It’s a constant struggle against mass marketing of standard flowers, Whalen said.

“Yes, you can get roses at Costco. Yes, you can go to Trader Joe’s. But I wish people would understand that it’s a different product when you’re shopping from a boutique like Casablanca Floral. You’re truly getting carefully grown and cared for premium product that’s artful and unique,” she said, adding, “There’s a difference between going to Canlis for dinner and going to McDonald’s.”

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She hopes more people recognize that “bringing fresh, carefully sourced and unique flowers into their environment is essential for our well-being,” Whalen said. “To me, it’s no different from enjoying a great bottle of wine or a meal out — it’s temporal and a bit spendy, but it yields so much happiness.”

Welcome to one of the most love-filled days of the year! Whether you’re riding solo or spending the day with loved one(s), here’s our guide to Valentine’s Day in the Seattle area: romantic and sweet-filled walks, date ideas, reader memories and more.

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What else is happening

Here are some other events happening Feb. 11-17 in the Puget Sound area, including events celebrating Valentine’s Day and Black History Month. If you would like to submit an event for consideration, fill out the form at the bottom of the post. Please check event websites for more information, including coronavirus requirements.

Kids Cookie Workshop: Incredible Valentine’s Cookies — Feb. 11

Join PCC and cooking instructor Cam Zarcone for a class on freshly baked cookies 4-5:30 p.m. Kids will bake along with Zarcone and measure, mix and form chocolate and vanilla swirled shortbread hearts and make heart thumbprint cookies. They’ll then take their cookies up a notch and make vanilla frosting for decorating. Register online; $35. pccmarkets.com

Richard Thompson: Solo Acoustic Performance — Feb. 11

Tacoma Arts Live presents a solo acoustic performance of Richard Thompson at 7:30 p.m. Purchase tickets online; $29-$69. 901 Broadway, Tacoma; 253-346-1721; tacomaartslive.org

Mindi Abair Wine and Jazz Valentine’s Week — Feb. 11-14

Dimitriou’s Jazz Alley welcomes two-time Grammy nominee Mindi Abair for the 20th anniversary of her Valentine’s week residency. This year, Jazz Alley will be serving Abair’s own reserve tastings wines. Band members include Abair (sax and vocals), Rodney Lee (keyboards), Peter Mongaya (guitar), Arthur Thompson (drums and vocals) and Sean Hurley (bass). Purchase tickets online; $40.50 (Feb. 11-13), $56.50 (Feb. 14). 2033 Sixth Ave., Seattle; 206-441-9729; jazzalley.com

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Live from Laurel Canyon: Songs and Stories of American Folk Rock — Feb. 12

Kent’s Spotlight Series presents Live from Laurel Canyon: Songs and Stories of American Folk Rock at 7:30 p.m. From “California Dreamin'” to “Hotel California,” Live from Laurel Canyon is a journey through a special time in American popular music. Purchase tickets online; $28/adults, $26/seniors, $15/youth. 10020 S.E. 256th St., Kent; 253-856-5051; kentwa.gov

School Employee Appreciation Day at National Nordic Museum — Feb. 12-13

The National Nordic Museum welcomes school employees and their guests with free admission Feb. 12-13. To receive free admission, show your school ID or other proof of employment in education at the admissions desk. Tickets are available at the door only —no phone or web orders. Free. 2655 N.W. Market St., Seattle; 206-789-5707; nordicmuseum.org

“The Future of Black: Afrofuturism, Black Comics, and Superhero Poetry” — Feb. 16

KCTS 9, in collaboration with Third Place Books and PBS Books, presents a reading of “The Future of Black: Afrofuturism, Black Comics, and Superhero Poetry” by Gary Jackson, Len Lawson and Cynthia Manick at 7 p.m. Local author Anastacia-Reneé will facilitate the conversation. Register online; free. kcts9.org

Black History Month Keynote Program: A Conversation with the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, Lonnie Bunch — Feb. 17

Secretary Lonnie Bunch, founding director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, will discuss the past, present and future of Black history at 5 p.m. Dr. Quintard Taylor, retired history professor of the University of Washington and founder of the BlackPast.org, will moderate the conversation. Register online; free. naamnw.org

Wonderful World of Trilliums — Feb. 17

Bellevue Botanical Garden hosts a webinar with Susie Egan from Cottage Lake Gardens 7-8:30 p.m. Participants will learn about the history, botany, cultivation and propagation of trilliums, including photos of many of the most popular trillium species that are easily grown in Northwest gardens. Purchase tickets online; $10.50/members, $15/nonmembers. bellevuebotanical.org