Roses and lilies and peonies, oh my
With a landscape flush with flora, nuptial bouquets are mere icing on Sonoma Valley's already verdant cake. From season to season the Valley is adorned with mustard, sun-dappled vinerows, clusters of daffodils, poppies and cornflowers exploding like confetti in dry fields. Roadside roses color autumn's afternoon drives, clouds of star jasmine dab perfume on every street corner.
But all those flowers don't simply self-assemble into lady-love's bridal bouquet. For that, she'll probably want a real florist.
Cloaked in a dense frock of foliage, Anne Appleman Flowers & Plants is a good starting point. Tiers of artfully arranged specimens float upon tables and centerpieces, emitting their dizzy, fresh-cut fragrance. There are pink peonies full as ball gowns, candle-shaped calla lilies, fat echeveria peeping out of terra-cotta pots. Every season orchestrates its own polychromatic parade. Anne's bridal and wedding flowers are both a reflection of the bride and poignant bookmarks of time and place.
"Our strength is in flowers suited to each individual bride," says Anne. "We do every kind of style that there is. Each wedding is a custom order."
Out of a cheery red barn on Broadway, mother/daughter team Judi and Sally Blue (along with well-known floral designer Tasha) operate a beloved Valley favorite, Sonoma Flowers. For the past 16 years, they've been putting their personal touches on weddings, often with flowers they grow themselves in the garden behind the shop-from mums to yarrow to artichoke flowers, from sedum to countless blooms of vibrant color and texture. Sonoma Flowers is a full-scale florist and can handle weddings of any size, but they have a soft spot for smaller affairs.
"A lot of florists here have minimums, and that we do not do," says Sally. "A lot of couples come out with nine people in their party, and what they need is a bouquet, a few corsages and some boutonnieres." She considers that as good an order as any.
Flaxx Floral Design's Leah Lowery also boasts a knack for floral enchantery, and no, that's not a real word. But her dazzling arrangements are more akin to organic art installations-from strikingly structured centerpieces to effusive arbors.
Working alongside trusted event planner Sasha Souza, "We set the whole theme-from decor and draping to candles (I pour my own). We create an ambience," she adds. Whether bouquets are simple or extravagant, Leah aims for "depth, dimension and interest. I like using unusual materials. I only use really quality flowers that I know will last. Many wildflowers in the 100-degree heat of Sonoma aren't going to work."
It goes without saying the floral talent pool is stunning, but if you pine for rustic DIY simplicity-or if your budget is closer to peasant than princess-you can also procure your blooms directly from growers. Assemble your own bouquets from flower stalls at Sonoma's year-round Friday farmers market, or visit sites like Oak Hill Farm's Red Barn Store. Ask ahead of time what will be in bloom on your big day; plan accordingly, but be as flexible as a willow in the wind.