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BEST FLORIST (WEDDING DIVISION) Minneapolis 1999 -

All right, the Cities are chock full of excellent florists, and most people in the bridal industry seem unwilling to narrow "the best" below a list of four or five. But flip through any issue of Minnesota Bride and pick out the most striking bouquets; we'll bet they were designed by Wisteria's owner, Russell Toscano. The buoyant Toscano thinks in palettes and textures, forsaking showy, intrusive arrangements. Instead, he paints in small touches--a single large rose, a cream-colored pillar candle, some scattered ivy for a dinner table centerpiece (guests can actually see who they're talking to across the table!). We know a bride who cried for five minutes after seeing her lush all-ivory bouquet of calla lilies, roses, herbs, wildflowers, and wandering greenery--and then cried five more minutes after walking into the reception site. The florist's job--beyond boutonnieres and bouquets, centerpieces and cake tables--is to charm the space, to make it magical. Toscano (whose art-deco-style glasses are themselves works of art) uses fabrics, ribbons, candles, flowers, foliage, and lights to create the sort of fairy-tale world weddings are traditionally supposed to connote. And, unlike many florists, Toscano seems excited by challenges; he listens to your needs and then rattles off possibilities, instead of waiting for your marching orders. As with everything else in a big-bang wedding, flowers cost an arm and a leg: count on a 300-person, formal affair with two locations and a sit-down dinner putting you out more than $3,000, but Toscano at least has proved refreshingly frank about budget and is willing to work within his clients' price range.

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