Your name: Susan Donley
Your Business name: Florali
Your Location: Walnut Creek, California
How did you start your business?
I’m pretty sure I have been a gardener my whole life. My father and
grandfather were both serious home gardeners. When I was growing up my
mother always had fresh bouquets of something picked from the garden on
our dining table. In summer it was lush bouquets of roses, in winter,
evergreens and berries. Every place I’ve ever lived I planted a flower
garden. It has always been as natural as breathing to pick flowers from
the garden and give them as gifts. In 2000 I was working as a computer
graphic designer and developed carpal tunnel syndrome. As it began to
heal, I thought about the next direction of my work and becoming a florist
seemed like a natural turn to take. I started from home and as the work
grew so did my need for more space. I was originally looking for a
warehouse, but couldn’t find anything suitable close to home, then a
friend told me about the space that we currently occupy. It’s in a retail
location so we made one third of space into a retail store and the other
two thirds are studio, office and storage. Shortly after opening the shop,
my son Darwin came to work part time while finishing art school. He is now
my partner and lends his creative talent to all aspects of the business.
How many years have you been in business?
This year is our 10th anniversary of the shop opening. We’re already
planning the party for this fall. Maybe you can come.
What is your design aesthetic?
Arrangements with movement are the most successful. Gorgeous flowers are
essential, but beautiful greenery is also a must. Some of my favorites
include akebia, spirea, witch hazel, philadelphus, chasmanthus lactifolium
(oat grass), rose greens like rugosa and chestnut rose, and my all time
favorite–clematis greens. And, of course, tendrils – passion vine,
sweetpeas, jasmine clematis – which add whimsy to any bouquet.
What inspires you?
I think inspiration can come from both external and internal forces. The
external forces that most effected my thinking as a floral designer came
from visiting gardens in England and flower shops in Paris. Seeing
Sissinghurst, Hidcote, and most importantly Hadspen House in southern
England completely rearranged the way I thought about color and design
with plant material. As for internal forces, every once in a while one is
blessed with a truly creative original idea. The few that I have come to
me in the bathtub. I love hot water.
What are the trends, flowers & colors that are unique to your region?
I believe there is a time for every idea to come to fruition. Trends occur
when lots of people get on board with the same idea. I think people are
moving toward the idea of sustainability. They like the idea of using
flowers that are grown in ones own garden or close to home. Natural
bouquets using things like zinnias, yarrow, rudbeckia, echinacea and
dahlias have lots of appeal right now. We love this. It’s so much easier
to please people when they like what you like.
Are you a retail shop, studio/warehouse or home based?
Retail with studio
Do you offer any services in addition to floral designs?
Darwin is super into orchids so in the shop we have a most wonderful
collection of unusual orchid plants for sale. He has become friends with
Tom Perlite of Golden Gate Orchids in San Francisco and visits his
greenhouses about twice a month to hand select all the plants we sell. We
also sell lots of containers from gorgeous glass by Belgian glassblower
Henry Dean to vintage medicine bottles.
What does your toolbox look like?
In house tools are primarily Japanese loppers for branches, Japanese
clippers for stems, not so sharp scissors for miscellaneous and really
sharp scissors for ribbon. When traveling I take along a nice canvas tool
bag that my husband gave me when Florali first began.
What tool in your toolbox can’t you live without?
Japanese clippers. They were life changing. They’re super sharp and easily
fit the hand. They’re available at Hida tools in Berkeley. hidatool.com
What’s your favorite flower?
Every season has a star, and every flower has a different role to play in
an arrangement. Some act as leading ladies, while others are in the
The star for me in spring is the peony, I think my favorite would have to
be fextiva maxima or bowl of cream. Summer – a garden rose, maybe Madame
Hardy or one of David Austin’s peach beauties. Fall – cafe au lait
dahlias. Winter, amaryllis–white or pale green. And another flower that I
must mention–for I dearly love it–is clematis. It brings grace to a
bouquet that is unmatched.
Anything else you’d like to share with Flirty Fleurs followers?
What a pleasure it’s been to share my thoughts about the love of my life.
Thanks to Alicia for being such a wonderful facilitator of inspiration.
What is your contact information?
2345 Boulevard Circle
Walnut Creek, CA 94595
and lots of other places like facebook, tumblr, pintrest, instagram which can all be found on our website.