Steel Magnolias

In case you didn’t know, magnolias aren’t steel. But I did steal a magnolia the other day.

A few weeks ago I had an discussion with a friend about whether or not it was magnolia season.  Well, it is magnolia season, and they’ve been on my mind ever since then. They’re blooming on trees everywhere, especially on a few that line the street I live on. Unfortunately for my five foot self, most of the blooms rest closer to the top of very tall trees. But to my surprise I saw flower, close enough for me to reach, calling my name. As soon as I got home I got my clippers, chopped off the magnolia, and stuck it in a vase.

Nobody told me (granted I never asked) that magnolias smell terrible. I was always too short to smell them on the tree myself.

I guess that’s what I get for stealing a magnolia.


The foul smelling result of my thievery.


Celebrity Jeopardy

One thing I’ve had to do a lot of lately is processing roses. Roses are different from other flowers due to the fact that you have to remove their pesky thorns.

Le Tools

Le Tools. That’s “the tools” in French. Everything is fancier in French


The roses that needed to be cleaned.

The goal is to get all the thorns and lower leaves off the stem. Some florists choose to use a tool called a rose stripper. No, not a stripper named Rose, a rose stripper. However, the disadvantage of using this tool is that it literally strips the entire stem of its outer skin, leaving it exposed. While this is a more painless way to remove thorns, it’s not good for the flower in the long run. Although more time consuming, using snips (the small scissors) or a knife is a better way to cut off the thorns. Start removing at the top near the blooms, because it puts less stress on the stem. This is according to Martha Stewart, may she rest in peace. Oh, she’s still around? The last I heard she was in prison, I just assumed she didn’t make it.

Sorry, it may have been too soon for a prison joke. I love Martha, and I think she’s great on Celebrity Jeopardy.

Anyways, for the final touch, cut the roses at an angle and place them back into water.

Now you have some snazzy lookin’ roses.


Before, and after having the stems cleaned.

Choo (times two) & Wu Tang

Before I dive into a daily account of what I do each day at Studio Choo, it crossed my mind to write a bit about the people I’ve been working with.

Studio Choo was started by Alethea (pronounced uh-lee-thee-uh) and Jill (pronounced Jill) in 2009 and their retail location was opened shortly after in 2010. According to their website the name “Choo” comes from a nickname they call each other based on Jill’s distinct sneeze, which I have yet to witness.

Both Jill and Alethea are determined women who have great attitudes towards life. Their knowledge of flowers and the inner workings of the floral business is vast. I’m beginning to see that the floral community is small, yet there seems to be quite a bit of collaboration. There is such thing as healthy competition, but you can also learn a lot from your peers.

Wendy, whom I’ve mentioned before, is one of their dedicated design assistants. She is bright and bubbly, and fits like a glove within the Studio Choo team. She has been deemed “Wu Tang” or “Wu” by Jill and Alethea. The three of them are always joking around that when Wendy starts her own floral design business she’ll call it “Studio Wu” and work in the same wild style as the ladies of the Choo.  If this ends up happening people may think there’s a chain of Chinese florists popping up in San Francisco. Apparently phone calls asking for a traditional Chinese bouquets have been known to happen.

I can only hope that spending more time with Jill and Alethea will result in getting an awesome nickname for myself.

They Like it Wild

Studio Choo has a very distinct style. They use a lot of wild flowers and their arrangements often have a “garden-y” look to them. That’s a technical term by the way. Gardeny. It means garden like. The term “garden-ish” is also acceptable. There’s no need to look it up, you can trust me.

In her own words Alethea said she often tells people, “Think of it like a little garden, with parings of one flower here and another group of flowers over there.” This a perfect example of some of Studio Choo’s arrangements. I don’t know anyone that wouldn’t want to have that delivered to them. And I could spend hours browsing through their photos on flickr. You should too. You should also check out the weekly column they wrote for Design*Sponge appropriately named, “We Like it Wild.” You should just be following Design*Sponge in general.

Classic Studio Choo Arrangements

Classic “wild” Choo arrangements

Today Alethea had me try my hand at an arrangement “Choo” style. It is not as effortless as it looks. To say that I struggled would be an understatement. The good thing is that have the entire summer to learn and perfect this style. On top of that Jill and Alethea are incredibly generous with their knowledge. They both seem genuinely interested in helping me grow (pun intended) and mature as a floral designer. This is something I rarely felt from my professors while in school.

The first arrangement needed quite a bit of help but then I was put in charge of one for a yoga studio down the street from the shop on Divisadero. In my opinion it was good enough but I too am looking forward to more practice under the guidance of Alethea and Jill.

Wild Yoga Arrangement

My “wild” arrangement for the yoga studio down the street.

A DIY refrigerated vehicle and ungodly amounts of crumpled newspaper.

Being a part of the floral business means getting up early. I loathe this more than most things. However, it makes such a huge difference when you’re motivated to get ahead. Motivation is something I haven’t felt in a while and now that it’s a part of my day–to–day life, getting up early seems so insignificant.

Today I worked mainly with Jill who spearheads all things wedding for Studio Choo. When starting the day the first thing that has to be done is getting the flowers processed. This means giving them a fresh cut (at an angle) and placing them into buckets with water. I mention the water because it’s a trade secret of florists. Now you know. Cut flowers need water to survive. Consider yourselves part of the cool kids club.

Planning ahead for very hot weather, Jill had me add a splash of Hyraflor to the water. It’s a magic potion that makes flowers last forever. Or at least helps them get through 100 degree weather as best they can by hydrating them and working to prevent wilting.

Next, I got to work on putting together some bouquets for bridesmaids. Making handheld bouquets is difficult, especially when you have hands the size of a small child in which to hold the flowers you’re working with. But thank God for Jill’s patience and willingness to teach me the wise ways of the Choo. Below are  a few pictures showing the elements of the bouquet (coral charm peonies, pink veronicas, orange snapdragons, garden roses, jasmine, geranium, and a few bright dahlias) and the final products all packed up ready to transport to the wedding.

Elements of the Bridesmaids Bouquets

peonies, garden roses, jasmine, snaps, dahlias, veronicas

Bright Bridesmaids Bouquets

All packed and ready for their journey!

Getting the flowers ready for travel is a huge job on its own. There are many things to consider, like making sure the flower don’t get up and walk away (this is why we drug them and tie them together). But fo reals, they have to be tightly packed within the crates so the jars don’t jostle around and break. This must be done with care in order not to crush them. It’s a delicate art and this is where the ungodly amounts of crumpled newspaper comes into play. Not only is the newspaper within the boxes of arrangements, it’s also placed around the boxes themselves in the refrigerated car. And by refrigerated car, I mean a regular ol’ ride with the A/C cranked up and paper placed over the windows so the flowers keep their youthful glow. Life is all about improvising. I’ve added a few more pictures because I always skip wordy blogs and head straight for the colorful photos. Enjoy!


Lovely boutonnieres made by Alethea.

More Arrangements

The table arrangements ready to be put into the car.

Sneaky Deliveries

Today I met (and spent the majority of the day with) Wendy, one of Studio Choo’s trusty assistants. Wendy is in charge of buying the flowers and arranging for two of Choo’s main accounts. These would be the restaurants Delfina, and Locanda. They are owned by the same person, and are close in proximity so it’s not a huge hassle. Both restaurants are beautiful spaces and the flowers enhance the inviting atmosphere. At this moment I command you to look at their equally beautiful websites here and here. Since I did study Art & Design in college I still reserve the right to drool over a beautiful logo and web page.

One of the awesome things about being a florist and doing weekly accounts like this is that you get to see the inner workings of cool businesses and people’s homes. It’s the ultimate high for a curiosity junkie. Not that I am one, I’m just saying it would be. Back to the restaurants. Delfina has quite a few arrangements: a small one at the hostess podium, two little ones in the restrooms, one medium one in the women’s restroom, three medium ones above the kitchen, another medium one above the bar area, and a large one in the seating area. Locanda has only two large arrangements. One over the bar and another towards the back of the restaurant.

According to Wendy, the key is to buy flowers and other plant material (like branches) that are going to hold up near a hot kitchen. She checks the arrangements at least twice a week and often tries to just refresh them, rather than start over completely. Makes sense to moi. That’s exactly what she had me do with one of the arrangements at Locanda. I have only one very gloomy looking photo but if you look closely you can see some french tulips that have yet to open and make their debut. The arrangement also includes some purple artichokes and bright sunflowers.

Locanda Arrangement

Locanda Arrangement

I’ll just quickly touch on what I mean by sneaky deliveries. Among the handful of personal arrangements to be delivered was one that needed to go downtown, around 4th and Market streets. This is death if you’re driving. But with sneaky and quick thinking Wendy there’s always a way around traffic and parking issues. She cleverly took advantage of the Marriott Hotel’s drive through by telling the vallet she was bring a few arrangements into the hotel. She went in the revolving doors, and back out the main entrance to get to her destination. Meanwhile, I watched over the car incase I had to fight off any zombie hotel employees. I did, by the way. And I won.

This was the moment I knew for sure that Wendy and I would get along perfectly.

Twas a successful day.

When life hands you lemons… start a blog?

It also helps if you’re getting school credit.

A little introduction is in order I believe. As I sprint towards the real world there are a few college credits looming over my head, and the easiest way to keep them from haunting me is to take on an internship. So that’s exactly what I’m going to do. One of the requirements is to keep a log of my activities and projects on said internship. And so, blogging it shall be. Who knows how far it will go?

I’ll be documenting my adventures and misadventures as I work my tail off breaking into the floral community of San Francisco. Hold up yo, I know what you’re thinking, “Damn, we’ve lost another one to some strange utopian cult breeding flower power  hippies.” Fear not my comrades! By “floral community” I mean the network of talented floral designers working throughout San Francisco and the Bay Area. This summer I’ll be spending my time with the lovely ladies of Studio Choo. (check out their beautiful site here)

Now back to the lemons. In the past four years I’ve had a few sour lemons thrown my way, and the process of getting those turned into lemonade has been a long one. Slowly the support of my family and friends has been the right amount of sugar necessary to complete the recipe. With the future looking bright, it seems as if my simple batch of lemonade may be turning into a delicious Arnold–Palmer. The right amount of iced–tea (and a splash of vodka) has brought things full circle.

But enough of the metaphor. I’m on to the next thing. Is anyone else in the mood for golf all of a sudden?