Human Flower Project
Hold onto the Moment
Silver trophies are a cinch, but what if your moment of triumph is crowned with flowers? A Danville, Kentucky, florist has a high-tech solution.
Jockey John Velazquez and 2011 Derby winner Animal Kingdom wearing his wreath of roses.
Tomorrow they’ll run the 138th Kentucky Derby in Louisville with great fanfare and millions of dollars on the line (but let’s hope, not the life of a thoroughbred racehorse as in 2008).
Called “the greatest two minutes in sports,” the Derby in Louisville now stretches to more than two weeks of festivity, and for breeders and trainers, preparing a three-year-old for the event can involve a lifetime of experience, investment and, of course luck.
No wonder winners want to hang onto the wreath of roses, the floral mantle every Derby winner gets to wear after the race.
Greg Kocher of the Lexington Herald-Leader wrote a good feature article on Molly’s Flowers and Things, a Danville flower shop that has been freeze drying floral trophies and other mementos for nearly 20 years. Her first client from the world of racing was W.T. Young. The owner of Overbrook Farm outside Lexington had Molly Jacobus “preserve the white carnations that Tabasco Cat took at the Belmont Stakes.” Two years later, when his horse Grindstone won the Derby, Young hired Molly to preserve the wreath of roses. Many of the winning owners since have done the same.
Molly Jacobus and her freeze-dryer, a machine that’s preserved Derby winners’ mantle of roses since 1996
Photo: Greg Kocher, Lexington Herald-Leader
Kocher compares the freeze dryer to “an iron lung” and explains the process in brief: “It flash-freezes the flowers to about 20 degrees below zero. A vacuum then removes the water from the flowers over six to eight weeks. The temperature inside the chamber gradually rises” drawing more moisture from the flowers.
Whereas most of us amateurs just hang our blossoms upside down in a dry place, Jacobus explains that the low-tech process shrinks blooms; her freeze dried method leaves them full size, though colors change.
There are other complications with retaining your wreath of roses: refrigerating, shipping and then finding a suitable receptacle (large custom-made glass viewing cases are best), because there’s no dusting freeze-dried flowers. Before she even gets started with preservation, Jacobus says, the Derby blanket of roses often requires more flowers and filling in, since racing fans are prone to snatch blooms for souvenirs.
(She can freeze-dry single blossoms, too.)