Where Have All the Flowers Gone?

White tablecloths weren't the only ritzy restaurant accessory to fall victim to the recession: Local florists say eateries are using fewer floral centerpieces.

Decades ago, a fine-dining table wasn't complete without at least a few blossoms in a vase. Even middlebrow restaurants were in the habit of dressing up their tables with flowers, Bruce McShan of McShan Florist recalls.

"Twenty or 30 years ago, you would have seen your carnations, your irises, your lilies," says McShan, whose family's been in the floral business since 1948.

But McShan says he rarely sees flowers on restaurant tables today, a phenomenon he attributes to "monetary" concerns. Fresh flowers are a costly luxury and a difficult one to defend when diners are increasingly worried about allergens and offensive odors.

Still, restaurants don't seem to have entirely abandoned the centerpiece concept. Over at Horne & Dekker, three whimsically-labeled cans are plopped atop each table. And the Four Seasons, whose recent financial woes were exemplified by the foreclosure of its Dallas-area resort, announced this spring it would replace floral arrangements throughout its properties with fancy vases and sculptures.

According to McShan, the old-guard restaurants that have maintained their flower traditions are fairly conservative in their floral selection: "The restaurants doing it are still sticking with carnations," he says.

McShan doesn't anticipate a fresh flower revival at restaurants.

"I think they're cutting back wherever they can," he says.

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