Plucking away at Azalea show

February 27, 2008 3:53:52 PM PST
The spring flower show at Garfield Park Conservatory is beautiful, but the real action is behind the scenes.Pluck ... Pluck ... Pluck. At the Garfield Park Conservatory, they are in the midst of their annual pluckfest, where they pluck the azaleas blossoms hour after hour and day after day.

"Right now all the staff are taking off all the spent blooms from all the azalea plants from our "Age of Azaleas" Flower show," said Matthew Barrett, horticulture foreman Garfield Park. "They just keep plucking until there are no more to pluck."

The Age Of Azaleas show opened in early February and it runs through Mother's Day, which presents a problem. Azaleas only bloom for two to three weeks before the blossoms die. So they bring in new plants to replace the old ones, which is where the pluckers come in.

So every year at this time as the azaleas come off exhibit the staff turns into a team of full time blossom pluckers. It's something that in the wild would be done by wind and rain. But these are indoor plants and each blossom must be hand plucked.

"Every single, individual bloom is handpicked so that next years bloom will regenerate," said Barrett.

There are hundreds of thousands- perhaps millions- of hand plucked blossoms.

"I can't even imagine it's so much," said Linda Allen, Garfield Park Conservatory.

"A bad plucker is a guy who doesn't take the stem off," said Franciso Garza, Garfield Park's 'Mr. Azalea,' "while the good plucker takes the whole thing off."