It’s not often that a game features a major character who ekes out a livelihood by selling flowers. I sought out Shawn Mulligan, a specialist in the floral industry based in Spokane, Washington, who agreed to speak with me about the portrayal of flower seller Areis Gainsborogh in Final Fantasy VII. What follows is our discussion.

Final Fantasy VII makes it seem like selling flowers is kind of a tough job– like most people aren’t interested in beauty at all. Is that true in real life, too?

Sure, to an extent. Most of my customers don’t care about or contemplate the beauty inherent to a flower in bloom, because they aren’t buying them because they like them. They’re buying them to function as symbols or gestures. That’s not to say that quality isn’t important, of course– you’re sending the message that you don’t really care if you just go to the supermarket for the cheap kind.

Speaking of quality, Aeris gets her flowers from the floor of an abandoned church. Does that strike you as a good place?

It’s a terrible place. Most serious florists don’t grow their stock on site because there’s basically no comparison to the kind that can be shipped in from dedicated growers– even considering the time they spend in transit. There’s no sun in Midgar, and the soil quality in the Sector 5 slums is probably abysmal. Plus, there’s a good chance the flowers would wilt in the time it takes her to bring them from the church to the street, since there’s no refrigeration provided by her wicker basket. She could at least get a little cooler or something.

I suppose you could argue that flowers growing in such terrible conditions is purposely meant to indicate some kind of miracle.

Maybe if the miracle is that she gets any business at all. I mean if she wanted to demonstrate the miracle of life flourishing despite being next to a Mako reactor, I could think of better ways than hacking it off at the roots and hawking it for a gil a stem.