By Michele J. Kuhn
MIDDLETOWN – Behind the hunter green door of what mistakenly appears to be a small yellow clapboard building is a holiday workshop of sorts.
After walking through the florist shop and then through a long, lush greenhouse stocked with colorful blooms and exotic greenery, a visitor comes to a large room with a peaked roof at Guaranteed Plants & Florist in the township’s Locust section. The room is filled with dozens of wide, bouquet-like red bows, huge pinecones, golden glass balls and dried natural materials. It is there – in the space jokingly referred to as “the elf’s workshop” – where holiday decorations, that will be hung throughout the Two River area, are created.
Last week, several women were busy turning full, plain evergreen wreaths, hanging on wooden posts, into beautiful symbols of the holiday season to come, bound for businesses and homes. They were working on wreaths ordered for a variety of Rumson businesses.
Guaranteed sells wreaths that range in size from small door wreaths to huge ones that will adorn the sides of buildings.
“We are turning them out like crazy,” said Betsy Ford, a longtime Guaranteed employee, as she pointed out an outdoor storage area piled high with blank evergreen wreaths.
The company-decorated wreaths are just one part of the variety of holiday décor and services available at Guaranteed. Services range from the sale of a holiday plant – there are two large greenhouses filled with poinsettias, plus amaryllis, cyclamen and paperwhites – to the custom decoration of homes, both interior and exterior, with natural evergreen roping, holiday greens, plants and flowers.
“We don’t do big lighting jobs,” Ford said. “It’s too time-consuming for us.”
While many of Guaranteed’s customers are longtime clients, each year they get calls from people who have seen their work and want the company to perform the same decorating services. “We will go and meet with the customer,” Ford said.
That, however, is changing somewhat with younger customers who prefer to text. “I’ll tell them to text me a photo of something they like or I’ll go to their house and take some photos and then text them suggestions of what we can do,” Ford said. “So often now it’s texting back and forth … It works out pretty well, especially with the photographs.”
Guaranteed Plants & Florist was started in 1976 by Todd Thompson and his wife Stevie. About four years later they were joined by Stephen Powers.
All three had grown up in the area. Todd Thompson started the business at a time when spider plants hanging in macramé holders were fashionable. “He began taking care of people’s plants and/or putting them into people’s businesses or restaurants,” Ford said.
“We have established a very strong, loyal clientele over the years,” she said. “We have also been big in the community too. Guaranteed Plants has supported just about every charity that asks.”
The company has been decorating homes and businesses for the holidays almost since it was started. It was a natural progression of what they were doing, said Powers, who is the main designer.
Some of the tips for homeowners that Ford recommends include waiting until it is closer to the holidays to decorate a home’s interior with fresh greens. Greens can dry out quickly and installing them later will keep them from drying out too fast. She also suggests that those who want greens on a mantle or some place in a house, use synthetic greens and add real elements, such as magnolia branches and other greens, as the holiday draws near.
Homeowners looking to “green up” outdoor pots or urns should leave the soil from previous plantings in the container because it is easier to stick cut greens, which can be taken from a home’s yard, or birch branches and other natural elements directly into the soil.
Another tip Ford has is for those who are using natural green roping around a door.
“It goes around the door and it’s upside down on one side and right side up on the other. You have to cut it in half and then put it together so that it will cascade on either side of the door,” she said.
And, she advises, “Good floral wire is always a good thing to have.”