Baltimore Florists Craft Iconic Preakness Stakes Flower Blankets for Global Spectacle

by Jennifer

For nearly three decades, the heart of a cherished Preakness tradition beats within the confines of a Giant grocery store lobby in Baltimore.


Here, a collective effort brings to life the floral blanket destined to adorn the victor of The Preakness Stakes and the esteemed Black-Eyed Susan race at the renowned Pimlico Race Course.

As the second jewel in the Triple Crown approaches, a team of skilled florists from across the city converges to meticulously craft this emblematic symbol.

“Maryland Pride”

With each passing year, the eyes of the world eagerly anticipate the moment when these floral masterpieces grace the triumphant steeds.

“We’re big on our Maryland pride,” expressed Jennifer Gobble, an integral part of the Preakness flower blanket team for eight years. “So that’s what goes through my head, is the pride you just see it going over the horse. You know because it’s exciting.”

A portion of these splendid creations finds their origins in Maryland, not far from the hallowed grounds of the Pimlico Race Course.

The Making of a Masterpiece

At Giant Foods Store #108, two of these distinguished blankets take form under the deft hands of a collaboration of florists from the Baltimore area.

“When I first got asked I couldn’t believe it because there’s so many florists and you know, got to pick me,” remarked Kim Greenblatt, a veteran florist with five years of Preakness and Black-Eyed Susan flower blanket expertise.

“It’s a little pressure because, you know, the whole world is seeing it. So you want everything to be perfect,” confessed Kathleen Marvel, a seasoned florist with 14 years dedicated to this floral endeavor.

Mary Pat Walbrecher stands as a beacon of expertise, having contributed to nearly every Preakness and Black-Eyed Susan flower blanket for the past 21 years.

“This blanket is a smaller one, so it usually takes all of us about six hours,” detailed Walbrecher as she diligently worked on the Black-Eyed Susan flower blanket. “It’s just amazing. I mean, to be a part of a Maryland tradition.”

The Subtle Substitution

While Maryland’s state flower, the Black-Eyed Susan, holds a place of honor in local lore, its seasonal bloom presents a logistical challenge.

“It is something that is history,” Marvel reflected. “I mean, every race that goes through every year, that’s seen by the world. I mean, they are out there, everybody sees.”

In a nod to practicality, the Viking Mum, or Viking Pom, assumes the mantle of floral choice for the winner’s blanket. Resplendent in yellow with a dark center akin to the Black-Eyed Susan, these blooms, meticulously handpicked in their thousands, grace the prestigious blanket.

“We do not use Black-Eyed Susans because they’re not in season yet,” clarified Marvel. “And these have a lot more petals, so we don’t have to use as many. Whereas, Black-Eyed Susans only have 13 petals.”

The Finishing Flourish

The assembly of each blanket is a labor-intensive affair, with each flower meticulously placed and secured.

“You put each individual flower, we cut it off the stem that we put a flock wire in it and then each individual flower is put into the matting. So this is done over and over and over many times,” elucidated Marvel.

A network of wires is then threaded through a rubber mesh cutout, tailored for the horse. Beneath, a layer of green felt ensures the comfort of the adorned equine.

“It’s just amazing to be a part of something that’s been going on for so long. So I feel like I’m a part of history now,” remarked Omar Allen, a newcomer to the floral team embarking on his inaugural foray into the flower blanket tradition.

The Race Ahead

The 100th iteration of the Black-Eyed Susan race typically precedes the Preakness, the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown, capturing the anticipation of racing enthusiasts worldwide.


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