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Kroger's Masterful Florists Earn a Tip of the Derby


With the second largest crowd in history (167,227) watching Nyquist add the 142nd Kentucky Derby jewel to his already impressive resume, wagering from all-sources on Derby Day was also the second highest in history, totaling $192.6 million.

But one of the safest bets placed at Louisville's famed Churchill Downs is on The Kroger Co., which has served as the official florist of the Kentucky Derby since 1987.

Continuing the tradition that began 29 years ago, master floral designers from The Kroger Co.'s Middletown store located at 12501 Shelbyville Road, Louisville, Ky., once again produced the Derby winner's stunning "Garland of Roses," the creation of which has become an event in and of itself for nearly three decades.

The store invited visitors to see the crafting of this year's rose garland from 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. on "Derby Eve," on Friday, May 6. The completed garland remained on display in the store until 8:30 a.m. on Saturday, May 7. At precisely 9:30 a.m. on Derby Day, the garland, along with the jockey's bouquet, were transported to Churchill Downs in two 2016 Ram ProMaster vans with a police escort. Both the garland and the bouquet were on public display near the Clubhouse Garden under the Jockey's Club Balcony from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., during which time Kroger's floral designers were on hand to answer questions and speak with the spectators.

"With the Garland of Roses being such an important part of the Kentucky Derby tradition it is a true honor for our team of floral designers to be involved," said Carol Belser, manager of the Kroger Floral Center in Louisville.

The history of the Garland dates to 1932, when the first one was designed by Louisvillian Grace Walker at the request of Churchill Downs. It replaced a horseshoe of roses that had been presented to previous Derby winners.

The Derby Garland is 122 inches long and 22 inches wide, and weighs approximately 40 lbs. More than 450 Rainforest Alliance certified "freedom" roses are placed on the garland. Each stem is inserted into its own water vial hidden inside the garland backing and carefully hand sewn into place, on a layer of thorn-less greenhouse foliage.

The "freedom" rose embodies elegance and grace in keeping with the high standards of excellence exhibited in the Derby. The roses are framed with an attractive hand-made border of boxwood, camellia and coffee leaves. To complete the design, custom-made ribbons are tied to fronds at each end and to the crown of roses at the center. A special rose is placed in the center to symbolize the struggle and heart needed to reach the Winner's Circle.

Along with the Derby Garland, Kroger also had the honors of creating the Oaks Garland for the "Lilies for the Fillies" for the 25th consecutive year. With more than 140 white star fighter lilies, each blossom on the Oaks Garland – which is 20 inches wide, 116 inches long and weighing approximately 20 pounds upon completion – is hand tied into its own water vial and trimmed in a border of Oak Ivy leaves symbolic of this prestigious event.

Check out more about Kroger's crafty Kentucky Derby florists here.

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