The Bloom is on the Rose and the Wacky Black Wreath

When I worked in the fashion industry, a lot of the time was passed in the giving and receiving of flowers; at its most ludicrous, that meant flowers to thank someone for giving you flowers.

A flower budget is the most glamorous, most superfluous line that can appear on any budget. Tom Ford, when he was at Gucci, always sent sun-blocking arrays of white roses with a handwritten note (don’t think that I still don’t sleep with that under my pillow). Marc Jacobs cleaned out New York market for his spring 2005 show, with a reported 450,000 pink flowers strewn hither and yon as his stage set.

But the first question among fashion folk when a bouquet arrives is not who sent the arrangement but which florist did it come from?

That habit has now spread beyond runway rats and Toronto has become a name-dropping city when it comes to flowers. Those who want to smell like old money order from Emblem or Blossoms, midtown standbys used by socialites, decorators and other professional floral fluffers. Those who want to play artsy go to Flori on St. Clair or Luc Samuel Leclerc on Wellington Street East for their avant garde statements. Blackeyed Susan’s is the choice for the Martha-Stewart tasteful. Thriving Metropolis is for the contemporary (i.e., “leather-sofa-owning”) couple, Parterre is English sophisticated and Fleur on Mount Pleasant is classical “with an edge”, by which I take owner Brad Currie to mean miniature castle centerpieces.

This is no longer an FTD city, and those who want to compete in the trendy sweepstakes are looking beyond the established floral names. In the past few years, a half dozen cute, little upstart shops, mostly belonging to young women, have popped up around town.

“There is a bit of thing right now,” says Douglas McLeod, a partner at Parterre, once an upstart itself, now a stately fixture on Davenport for the past 13 years. “People want to try the latest, greatest thing.”

Among the new shop names to drop are Poppies (for glitter and whimsy), Midge (for cheap and cheerful), Quince (for feathers and tropical greens) and Fresh Floral Creations (for fabulously creative designs).

The new, new thing is Mondu (pronounced like “Oh my God” in French), which opened two months ago, just in time for the Christmas rush.

One of the hallmarks of trendy start-up floral shops, like trendy start-up jewelery shops and art galleries, is that they tend to pop up on the city’s dodgier strips, where rents are low and owners get street cred for their adventuresome spirit. Thus, it is with amusement that I think of Rosedale ladies beaching their Lexuses in the lot near the Bond Place Hotel and hiving off to the Mondu down the bleak stretch of Dundas Street East.

Inside the shop, Monique Durrant, 35, is fussing with curly birch to liven up the city’s hands-down favorite holiday bloom, the amaryllis. “I want to do the things that have not been done before,” she says, “play with shapes, textures, bold colors. The old FTD arrangements depress me”.

How about black wreaths? The Poppies girls – Barb Goode and Laura Tarbat – known on their Queen West strip as “the pioneer girls”, because they opened 2 1/2 years ago, before the higher-end galleries and the Drake – feel that their calling is to do the wacky. This year they are peddling black wreaths, pine cones sprayed black with lots of glitter and bright baubles. At $50 a pop, they are selling like hotcakes. “some people don’t get it. We might be a little ahead of our time,” Ms. Goode says.

Clients now drive in from North Toronto or the Beaches. There is also a large walk-in trade, as the serious art crowd now strolls the strip regularly.

Rosie Little orginally opened Quince as an art gallery-cum-floral shop in a space with UpCountry on EasternAvenue. “We earned a name with design and film community,” she says. “They have a lot of influence with clients, so we got into the important homes uptown.”

Furniture and flowers turned out to be such a good mix, Ms. Little then hooked up with the “Queen of Cake”, Duffet Rosenberg, and…..