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Best Florist 

Alex Waldbart Florist

Summer can be downtime for florists. There are no "flower holidays" like Mother's Day or Easter. Besides, people have flowers in their yards, fresh for the picking. The recent seasonal lull, however, certainly was not apparent at Waldbart's. A family business since 1872 and one of the longest-running in St. Louis, Waldbart's does a brisk trade in fresh-cut flowers, green plants, wreaths and blooming baskets. The baskets are especially popular, brimming with azaleas, ivy, violets, mini rosebushes and brightly colored flowering kalanchoe. "People love them," says Claire Waldbart Kramer, a fourth-generation florist, who runs the shop with sister Ellen Waldbart Ellis. Claire's first stop in the morning is Florist Row on LaSalle Street, where she picks out fresh flowers by the bagful. Between the demand for wedding arrangements, get-well bouquets and casket sprays, the work table in the shop's back room is a bustling place. Vicky Gogel, 1998 Missouri State Floral Association Designer of the Year, is one of six designers who stand at that table most of the day. Weekends mean weddings, and "wedding work" is Gogel's love. Typically she works closely with the bride in the weeks before the wedding, discussing the right flourish of colors, floral variety and design. On the wedding day, someone will go to the church or temple to set up the arrangement and, after the ceremony, take it down. Gogel puts the finishing touches on a wreath of sweet huck and silk orchids. It will go out into the showroom for sale. She has no idea whose door it will grace, but whoever that person is, he or she will be delighted for many moons to come.

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