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Send in the clowns (3)

By Xu Lin (China Daily)

16:57, August 23, 2012

An employee at a flower shop in Suzhou, Jiangsu province, tends to flowers as she prepares for Qixi, or Chinese Valentine's Day. (Wang Jiankang / For China Daily)

"Customers have told me many touching stories," she says. "For them, each is unique to them and so, each flower arrangement we make for them is also unique." For example, they once placed three cacti into a box to represent a family of three, and made a rainbow out of colorful petals to symbolize a couple's love, like a rainbow after rain.

She will also make copies of love letters, and carefully laminate them so they are preserved better. "I thought it a great pity that my own love letters had yellowed over time, and so I wanted to save these sweet memories for young lovers. It turned out to be a very popular service."

Better preservation, a much-improved courier and logistics system and the Internet have all helped these florists with value-added services grow.

As Gu explains, boxes of flowers with the blooms arranged like an oil painting can now be sent all over the country because they can be better preserved, and because of the sophisticated express delivery system. They can be sent to other cities because the flowers can keep fresh for several days without watering.

Micro-blogging online has also accelerated the popularity of such services. Gu posts most of her orders online, with photos and the little stories behind each order. Another Shanghai-based florist, who sells mainly online, has attracted more than 130,000 followers on China's leading Twitter-like platform Sina Weibo.

Sometimes, the most rewarding job belongs to the messenger. Cao, our clown with the red hearts surprise, says he enjoys his job very much, especially when he hands over the bouquet. There are always smiles of surprise or tears of joy, and even the odd excitement of a marriage proposal. "I like to see all that," he says.

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