SARATOGA SPRINGS — Florist Sue Garrett has been crafting floral blankets for the New York Racing Association to drape over the winner of the Travers Stakes for nearly 25 years.
On Friday, the Wilton resident was working on a new assignment from NYRA — making seven floral blankets for the 2018 Belmont Stakes.
“They really liked my work and said they wanted the blankets at Belmont,” Garrett said. “The man who had been doing it retired this year, so I took over.”
Garrett had a team of 12 friends helping her hand sew between 750 and 800 carnations onto each blanket at Dehn’s Flowers and Greenhouses on Beekman Street on Friday.
“It’s the 150th anniversary, so everyone wanted to be part of it,” she said.
It takes approximately five hours to assemble each of the blankets, according to Garrett, who made all seven quilts over the past few months.
“We lay flowers down on the blanket and use waterproof glue for the flowers before hand sewing each flower onto the blanket,” she said.
Garrett and her team worked with carnations, which has been the official flower of the Belmont Stakes for 150 years.
A refrigerated NYRA truck was scheduled to pick up the blankets from Dehn’s at 10 p.m. Friday to drive them down to Elmont, where the Belmont Stakes are run.
Garrett said she and her husband will also be at the race on Saturday with around 350 extra carnations, in case she needs to “put out a fire.”
“We’ll see what we need to replace before it goes out to the Winner’s Circle,” she said. “It’s really just a good excuse to get down there.”
Having a hand in the Belmont Stakes has been an honor for Garrett, who has worked as a florist for the past 33 years.
“I’m so excited to see these blankets go on the winners,” she said. “When you make something like this, it’s such an interesting niche, and I love what I do, so to have done this is amazing.”
Garrett first asked NYRA if she could do a floral blanket for the Travers Stakes in 1994.
Soon after, Saratoga Springs socialite and philanthropist Marylou Whitney asked Garrett to make a floral blanket of pink roses for the Whitney Stakes every August. Making that blanket for the coming Whitney Stakes will be her next floral endeavor.
Garrett said she’s thrilled to have projects added to her workload.
“They know they’re getting a handmade quality product,” Garrett said. “It’s nice to be recognized and know they appreciate the hard work we put into it.”