Sometimes a red rose is just a red rose, even on Capitol Hill

“Say it with flowers” can be complicated when even colors are partisan. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
“Say it with flowers” can be complicated when even colors are partisan. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted February 13, 2020 at 6:00am

Red is the go-to choice on Valentine’s Day, but nothing is that simple in political Washington, home of questions like, “Does this tie make me look like a Republican?”

With flower deliveries set to descend on Capitol Hill for the holiday, I asked an expert how to stay thoroughly neutral.

“Roses come in all colors — beautiful lavender, peach,” says florist Lee Herman, who at first rejected the premise of the question but then gamely played along. 

Purple has emerged as a safe or bold choice in the political realm, depending on the context. Members of the House Problem Solvers Caucus, for example, stuck together at this year’s State of the Union by wearing the color.  

Either way, it's an easy look to achieve in the floral world. Herman recommends purple tulips, lavender and purple roses, or purple hydrangeas.

He’s been sending flowers to Capitol Hill for decades. His family-owned business, Palace Florists, is an approved vendor and works alongside catering services on congressional receptions and other events.

“We deliver to the House side, not every day, but almost every day,” Herman says.

Navigating the partisan color scheme of Washington is not his first concern. Instead, it’s making sure flowers get delivered on time, which is harder than it sounds when tight security is involved. 

For big deliveries, his trucks get screened at an offsite facility before they can proceed to a loading dock in the Capitol complex. For smaller deliveries, his drivers call the recipient to set a meeting point.

“We ask them if they can come down to street level. We’ll be on the corner of 1st and C, for example,” he says.

If you’re getting a romantic bouquet as a gift, collecting your delivery outside in a public area — the procedure required by the Capitol Police — is kind of a pain. But it’s better than the alternative, which is getting boxed flowers in the mail. 

Since the anthrax attacks in 2001, mail for Congress has been rerouted. Any box addressed to a congressional building that comes through a nationwide carrier, such as FedEx or UPS, will end up in an offsite screening facility. “Items delivered to that facility will not be available for approximately 72 hours from receipt,” as the Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Office of Security and Emergency Preparedness reminded staffers in its annual Valentine’s Day memo.

That means a box full of sad, wilted blooms — all the more reason to go with a local florist for your Valentine’s Day needs, according to Herman.

“We’re a 75-year-old business,” he says of Palace Florists, which started out in Dupont Circle and is now based in Rockville, Maryland. “If I sell flowers, they get there.”

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