- The Washington Times - Friday, December 8, 2000

The neighbors have strung their house with lights, and fake snow is piling up on department store displays.

It is the season to decorate, and Washingtonians willing and able to splurge on the effort are making Rick Davis a very busy man.

Mr. Davis, the design manager at Amaryllis, a Northwest Washington florist, conceives and installs lavish floral displays. The company provides everything from flowers and vases to lighting or linens for weddings, corporate events and Christmas festivities.

During the holiday season, the company's staff has a hectic schedule, adorning local homes, businesses and party venues with fresh flowers and garlands.

"Flowers are a luxury. They're right up there with diamonds and fancy cars, they're things you don't have to have," said Mr. Davis, 34.

For one 500-person wedding this fall, a couple spent an eye-popping $90,000 on flowers.

Most jobs are more modest. Christmas decorations run a couple of thousand dollars and up, Mr. Davis said.

His involvement with flowers goes deeper than work. He commutes an hour and half each day from his 27-acre farm in St. Mary's County in Southern Maryland. There, he grows the cut flowers he sells.

But his farming hobbies aren't limited to the horticultural world. They extend to a more unusual avocation, raising ornamental poultry. He cares for some 300 ducks and geese on his farm and takes them to poultry shows each year or sells them to customers to show or eat.

Running a farm, albeit a small one, and working a full-time job with a long commute doesn't leave much time for sleep. On a recent workday, Mr. Davis arrives in the District about 7 a.m., after rising by 4:30 a.m. to take care of farm duties.

His first order of work business is a visit to the flower market on Eckington Place in Northeast. Once at Amaryllis, he starts organizing for the day's deliveries and orders flowers for the next week.

The chilly workshop is fragrant, packed with buckets of fresh flowers that the staff cleans and arranges in different-sized vases for various clients.

Mr. Davis doesn't have the look of a farmer as he leans against a desk in a corner of the shop. His brown hair is sculpted into thin, hip spikes, and he wears silver rings with abstract, tribal designs.

But he notes that most of the florist's workers have an art background of some sort. He got a degree in ornamental horticulture from a small college north of Chicago and has worked at Amaryllis for nine years.

His artistic flair becomes apparent after he and four other designers arrive at a private home in Great Falls about 10:30 a.m. The crew greets owner Sandy Nick, who has had the shop decorate her home for several years.

"I tried to do it myself a few times, and it's just overwhelming," she says.

This is no lighted-Santa-on-the-lawn kind of job. The crew will decorate a Christmas tree which Ms. Nick already has put up her mantles and staircase. Saturday morning they will return with fresh flowers for a party she is hosting over the weekend.

"They've got the best eye," Ms. Nick says.

The crew, including Mr. Davis, unwraps ornaments and unfurls bows from boxes. Slowly, despite the pine needles and packaging on the floor, festive decorations come to life.

One designer carefully strings lights on the tree, then festoons it with gold bows. Another winds aromatic garlands around the staircase.

Mr. Davis devotes himself to the living-room mantle. He and another worker toss garlands on the shelf, then he focuses on the placement of each additional decoration juniper branches, fake pears and bows.

As Ms. Nick says, the decorations appear simple and lovely, but take time and that "eye" to create.

Mr. Davis leaves the crew in the afternoon for a 2 p.m. appointment in Bethesda with a bride and wedding planner. He usually doesn't make the trek back to his farm until 6 or 7 p.m., if not later.

He says the same qualities that drew him to floral design are what he likes about farming.

"It's always sort of a learning experience… . There's something new happening every day with the animals," he said.

Likewise, every event he decorates is different. He also meets people through both his vocation and avocation. At work, he meets clients. When he goes to poultry shows, he meets other bird owners from all over the country.

His long days haven't discouraged him from the job he doesn't plan to enter another field anytime soon.

"I wouldn't know what else to do," he said.

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