Say it with flowers, again and again
I’ve been sprucing up tired flowerpots with new color over the past week in preparation for my wife’s return from a well-deserved vacation in Venice.
The bright yellow blossoms on a 4-foot tall Helianthus annus that I picked up at B&C Nursery are a beautiful way to say, “Welcome home!” as are the happy faces on the pansies in several pots.
But the “piece de resistance” (if you’ll excuse my limited French) is the floral arrangement I got at Country Florist, on Combie Road.
“Oh, sweetheart!” she said, “It’s gorgeous!”
Henry and Sherry Fiser are the owners of the shop, making a success where four other owners have failed to gain a following.
“The reason,” Henry says in his heavily flavored French accent, “is that we’re not just selling flowers. We’re selling quality.”
That means extra flowers in each bouquet. That means having the freshest flowers available. And it means carefully listening to what people want and designing just for them, not offering a set menu.
This attitude helped make Henry’s highly acclaimed French restaurant “La Ruche” (The Beehive) on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles a dining room for Hollywood celebrities including names like Barbara Stanwyck, Glen Ford, Peter Falk and Barbra Streisand. And it served the couple well when they sold the restaurant 17 years ago and headed for Grass Valley, where they built custom-made furniture for clients including film maker Steven Spielberg, Sharon Stone, Fleetwood Mac and Neil Diamond.
But, as Henry explains, years and years of lugging heavy lumber around takes a toll on the body and three years ago, when the shop at 10510 Combie Road (where Henry had been working part time) went up for sale, they bought it one day and were in operation the next.
“We did all of the flower arranging in our Los Angeles restaurant,” he smiles, “and our customers couldn’t believe that they weren’t the work of professionals. So they started asking us to do flower arrangements for special occasions.”
It was at the restaurant where Henry met Sherry. “She came, and she stayed,” he laughs with a wave of his hands, “and after a few years she said, ‘Let’s sell the restaurant and go back to the country.’ And I’m so glad she did. If I had stayed in the restaurant business, I’d probably be dead by now.”
At Country Florist (a sample of their work may be seen on the Internet at http://www.countryflorist.net ) there’s a division of duties: Henry is in charge of the larger, grandiose arrangements while Sherry does the smaller ones, such as my gift to Felicia. And, she’s the one in charge of finances.
“I work for her,” Henry says with a smile and shrug of his shoulders. “I hope she doesn’t fire me.”
Henry acknowledges that buying flowers from a florist is more expensive than picking up a pre-packaged bouquet from the supermarket.
“I have nothing against people buying flowers while they’re shopping for food,” he nods, “and sometimes that’s all they can afford. But when you get those flowers home you’ll be lucky if they last six days. I expect that the arrangement Sherry is making for your wife will still be beautiful two weeks from now. That’s because we buy high quality flowers.”
Are there any tricks to keeping the arrangement looking fresh? Does dropping an aspirin in the water help?
Henry shakes his head back and forth: “Just keep fresh water in the container.”
Summing up the philosophy at Country Florist, Henry says, “We believe in quality and be believe in service, which has been forgotten for years now. That happened when people began pumping gas in their own cars and started bagging their own groceries. When we find a blemish on a blossom, it doesn’t go into an arrangement. Our flowers have to be perfect. And when something happens to cause a complaint, like the time our delivery man left flowers outdoors because the customer wasn’t home, and they were wilted when the people returned, we replaced them immediately. If you make people happy like that, they will come back!”
Mark your calendars: Next Saturday the UCCE Master Gardeners are giving a free workshop, “Working with Natives in the Oak Habitat,” from 10 a.m. to noon at the demonstration garden at the Nevada Irrigation District headquarters, 1036 West Main St., Grass Valley. The program will be held, rain or shine.
Topics to be discussed include creating a landscape around native oaks (without endangering them with too much summer water), California native plants, grasses and perennial wild flowers that do well in the foothills.
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