December 22, 2021
This August, I was finally lucky enough to attend The Floral Source‘s Retreat to California to visit the flower farms around Santa Cruz. We stayed at the beautiful Sand Rock Farm, which is open for weddings and other special events and it served as the perfect home base for our group. For the first 2 days, we left the farm to visit some of the many flower farms in the area. On the 3rd day, we stayed put, and had some discussions around sustainable floristry, year-round seasonal floral sourcing, and we created beautiful bouquets, centerpieces, and foam-free ceremony designs, all in time to clean up for a farewell dinner under the stars.
We started with a welcome dinner, where we met all the participants. We decorated the table with beautiful roses from Pajarosa, one of only 6 American rose farms left in the US. The ones we got to cut for this dinner are the ones that had blown open on the rose plant. Sometimes they curl downwards, instead of growing straight up. These aren’t good for selling, so they’re usually pruned off, so that the plant can dedicate its energy towards the stems that are growing straight upwards. We were lucky enough to be able to cut some before they were cut off. Dinner was beautiful and the roses were perfect!
Day One started with a visit to KB Farms. At the end of WWII, the oldest Kitayama brothers came to San Fransisco and opened their own greenhouse on 1 acre of land and soon were joined by their two younger brothers. Remaining a family owned business, KB Farms has expanded over the years to multiple locations. They are an incredible farm with an eye to sustainable practices. They use crop rotation to help replenish and nourish the soil. They sterilize the ground with steam from boilers to cook the ground to kill weeds and fungal root diseases – so amazing! They also reuse a lot of the water for their irrigation in the greenhouses.
KB Farms sells a number of different flowers including, lilies, gardenias, gerbers, kale, lisianthus, ranunculus, snapdragons, and stock. Something else I loved is that they are also handling distribution for some of the smaller farms in the Santa Cruz area who cannot do so. Those small farms bring their product to KB, and KB distributes their product with their own to larger buyers and wholesalers. I love that they are helping those smaller businesses stay in business!
Next up was Camflor. Camflor began in 1980, when the Campos family migrated to the United States from Mexico. Something I love about Camflor is their effort to reduce their company’s carbon footprint when it comes to their shipping practices. They use primarily biodegradable sleeves for their flower bunches, and have moved away from a styrofoam-lined box for insulation. Instead, they are shipping in a biodegradable liner, in order to reduce the amount of waste that is ending up in a landfill. This really impacted me, as I too, am trying to reduce the amount of waste my company is creating. They grow an INSANE amount of flowers and greenery, too many to even list here, but you can see them on their website. It’s incredible!
Day Two started with all the roses. We began at Green Valley Floral. They grow roses, lilies and and gerber daisies. As a wedding florist, of course, my interest was the roses, which are grown hydroponically in coconut husks. They also invest in solar energy, enough to offset 723,496 lbs. of carbon dioxide annually, with an estimated annual production of 475,922kWh. If you don’t speak solar (I know I don’t!), that’s more than enough to make a round trip to the moon and back! In addition to their green practices, their roses are absolutely exquisite!
The second farm of the day was Pajarosa Farm. Pajarosa was started in 1979 and was one of the first farms in California to institute hydroponic growing methods. Their roses are also grown in coconut fibers, and they are actually able to recycle 100% of their water! California Pajarosa has been certified by the agricultural sustainability standards, certification and eco-labeling program recognized as the gold-standard in the floriculture and horticulture industries. Pajarosa is one of the farms that grows my absolute favorite garden rose, Romantic Antique. Excuse me while I now show you about 9000 pictures of her…. They also have some beautiful hydrangea. I’m proud to say Pajarosa is one of the farms I buy directly from so my brides are already receiving these beautiful roses and hydrangea!
Paul, at Pajarosa, seriously has some of the best spray roses I have ever used!!
This is just one of the amazing hydrangea fields! I love how each bloom is unique – they each have their own antiqued look!
The “queen” (just my opinion…), Romantic Antique, my favorite garden rose!
I may have collected more than one trucker hat on this trip!
Next up was Laurel Canyon Farm, a microfarm located on 2 acres in the Santa Cruz Mountains in Soquel, CA. In addition to their beautiful flowers, their farmstand sells heirloom vegetable starter plants, flower seeds, dahlia tubers and wool products from the Navajo Churro Sheep that are also being raised on the farm! Not only do the sheep provide wool, but their manure is a great (and free) natural fertilizer for the plants! My favorite part of this farm was the dahlia rows…. but I also found a little treat just hanging out on a fence – a passionflower vine! I never get over how different the natural vegetation is in California is, compared to Maryland!
Last farm of the day was Starsight Farm, an organic microfarm on 2 acres of land, just outside Santa Cruz. Starsight Farm grows specialty cut flowers using organic and biodynamic practices as well as other regenerative farming methods. By growing flowers free of chemicals, the farm protects the biodiversity of the farm, including the pollinators, soil, people and animals, and the surrounding neighborhood and waterways that connect to the ocean. This farm had such beautiful flowers – zinnias, cosmos, stunning dahlias, and sweet peas.
Final event of the day was a beach party and a lesson on floral wearables from Betsy Borden, of Dancing Daisies, which also included a little lesson in flower crowns from yours truly! Everyone learned to make floral earrings, cuffs, rings, crowns and tattoos and after their pieces were complete, we headed down to the beach for a mini photoshoot! It was a long day, but I don’t think I could’ve asked for a more beautiful ending, complete with a sunset on the beach.
Day Three began with a lesson from Kelly Shore, the mastermind behind The Floral Source, on sourcing flowers year-round, followed by a lesson in sustainable flower arranging from Sarah Reyes, of Wildflower and Fern. The rest of the day was spent creating bouquets, centerpieces and foam-free ceremony designs. Team “Redwood Tree” was headed by Kelly and Team “Moongate” was headed by Jennifer Reed, of Jennifer Designs. The ceremony designs were a great opportunity for us to try all of the sustainable mechanics we had been discussing all week.
The whole retreat ended with a dinner under the stars. What a culmination of the last 3 days…. delicious food, old and new friends, surrounded by flowers, California night air and live music.
Photos by Rachel Tweggs Photography unless otherwise indicated.