One of us here at Venn Floral took some time abroad this March to gather some French inspiration and to visit a good friend in the city of Paris...ooh lala.
While lupine, poppies, and fresh oak leaves were sprouting in the landscapes of Sonoma County taking over for the mustard blossoms and electric green grass, the French capital was still slumbering in its winter season. A heavy gray shroud hung over the rooftops and made the world feel just that big. The biting wind seeped into every crevice and sleeve any time you’d step outside. But here, the bulbs and first spring flowers had just made their annual appearance as we were preparing to say “au revoir.” Ranunculus, tulips, hyacinth and anemones were all lining the street corners and filling shop windows. While lilac was fading and roses were coming on back in California it felt as if I had stepped back just a month or two in time.
The seasons (or lack thereof as some folks might claim) in Sonoma County have me in constant anticipation for what’s next. Each month brings on new blossoms and leaves, a subtle change in fragrance and hue about the landscape, and material for designing with. While I try to remember to stay in the moment and enjoy what is here, I already know what’s coming- I’m looking for it everywhere, scanning roadsides, yards and local farms. When a plant material has passed out of season, you let it go. “See ya next year, bulb-dudes.”
There in Paris, the Narcissus were still king. Dutch tulips dripped over the edge of plastic buckets and crystal vases. Little checkered frittilaria were popping up in sidewalk planters! Forsythia filled the Jardin de Luxembourg with shocks of yellow, the Notre Dame was cradled in soft swaths of tulip magnolia blossoms, and pink cherry blossoms did their very best to cheer up Père Lachaise Cemetery.
I could feel the fervor of the first blossoms coming into the shops as phones were ringing, vans were being unloaded, and hurried customers snatched up pre-arranged peony and ranunculus bouquets wrapped in smooth brown paper. Petite pots of muscari pulled me over every time I passed for a whiff of grape candy, and when I stood I was always met by the floral-world's’ current darling looking down on me from the highest shelf- a glowing hellebore.
As some older gentlemen passed us teetering slowly with a fresh baguette in hand, the ladies were rushing with posies to their homes or to each other- who knows? I usually chose a brasserie or cafe by their choice of flowers or lack thereof, and craned my neck to peak in planter boxes hanging over the streets out of windows. If the passing sight of flowers was not enough to stave my appetite during my stay, the finely curated shops would certainly quench my thirst. I thought to myself throughout the week (as I’m the kind of person that can’t help but imagine what a life in whatever place I’m visiting would be like) that these shops would have to be my haven, and that I’d always need enough extra cash for flowers if I was going to make it through another entire French winter ever again. I couldn’t just settle on visiting and poking around. Without the intent to buy you might not be let in, as a sign on one unfortunate shop read: “No photos. No browsing. Only enter to purchase or order flowers.” We didn’t go in that one, and I suddenly remembered to either be polite and ask in my best bad French or take a picture as a stealthy passerby. It wasn’t the kind of trip that one would invest euros on perishable luxuries if you know what I mean. Those euros were for Champagne.
I developed a new, deep feeling of admiration for all these blossoms, and suddenly held a little more respect for them. Perhaps it had something to do with the subdued natural light or the extreme amounts of espresso consumed between shop visits. It might have taken the bitterness of the first day of spring in Paris, but I came to a realization. They were the troopers, the optimists that felt the day lengthen by just a few minutes after the solstice passed. These early bloomers arrived just in time to remind the city folk that winter does have an end in sight.
The week came to an end and I felt the pangs of homesickness tease me, as I used to be the champion of running away to far-off lands all alone for months on end. Anxiety about a growing to-do list at work, and a longing for the comforts of my husband and dog-child were silly interruptions for the fun I had roaming the city with my dear friend. It was rejuvenating to be with her and see the city with eyes that were looking beyond the tourist attractions. While I tried to take this trip as a chance to disconnect in a reasonable way from the daily going-on’s of business and life I couldn’t help but be made joyous by the sight of flowers still. I wanted nothing more than to snap pictures of each blossom, try to memorize their French names, and daydream of shipping cases home to play with. It was a good reminder that we’re in the right line of business when it doesn’t always feel like work, and that Sonoma County is an excellent place to call home.