Santa Cruz’s Teresa Sabankaya of Bonny Doon Garden Co. draws inspiration from her own garden and nearby flower farms (Episode 187)
April 1st, 2015
In 2007, Amy Stewart’s Flower Confidential introduced readers to a Santa Cruz-area floral designer named Teresa Sabankya. She wrote:
Teresa Sabankaya has the kind of flower shop that you would dream about opening, if you are the kind of person who dreams of opening a flower shop. It’s in a little green metal kiosk outside Bookshop Santa Cruz in coastal California. The flowers – all interesting, unusual, old-fashioned, ephemeral, perfumy, not-your-typical-florist kind of flowers – dance and wave from buckets crowded around the stall. Her inventory is highly seasonal: in summer you’ll find larkspur and poppies, and in winter it’s all heathers and holly and berries. If you’ve been so busy that you haven’t noticed that spring has arrived, you’ll stop short at the sight of the pink cherry blossom branches bursting out of her shop in early March, and it’ll make you resolve to slow down and enjoy the season. Even if you don’t buy a flower – and Teresa would be happy to sell you a single flower – just the sight of her little stall will lift some of the weight off your shoulders. Anyone who doubts whether flowers can change a person’s emotional state has never watched the people walking by Teresa’s shop.”
Amy continued: ” . . . The Bonny Doon Garden Company fit with my idea of how floral commerce must work – you’d grow some flowers in your garden, you’d buy some from a farmer down the road, and you’d put them in buckets and sell them to your neighbors.”
Well, anyone who read all of Flower Confidential knows that it’s about the international, multibillion dollar floriculture industry – a far cry from the charm of selling flowers from one’s garden in Santa Cruz.
I was always in awe of Teresa – she was a rock star profiled by Amy Stewart, for goodness sake’s. Until last week, Teresa and I had never met in person, but we felt connected through our friendship with Amy and because we both want to advance a new normal in the floral industry: where mindful practices of local, seasonal and sustainable flowers trump designing with imported ones.
Last year, when I launched the Slowflowers.com web site, Teresa created a listing for Tessa’s Garden, her studio business, and we started an occasional email correspondence.
Teresa had taken a break from the fast pace of running a retail flower shop and sold The Bonny Doon Garden Co. in 2012.
She then pivoted toward wedding and event design work, including hosting private ceremonies under the giant redwoods at her bountiful landscape in the hamlet of Bonny Doon, a few miles up the Coastal Highway from Santa Cruz.
Earlier this year, Teresa extended an invitation for me to stay a few days in the bridal cottage on her family’s property.
We planned ahead to schedule that visit – and this podcast interview – after my gig speaking at the San Francisco Flower & Garden Show on March 22nd.
Time in Santa Cruz and Bonny Doon was seriously magical –a 36-hour indulgence that included un-rushed time spent getting to know a kindred spirit and seeing her at home, in the garden, and back in her flower shop, which Teresa resumed ownership of as of two months ago.
Bonny Doon Garden Co. – she dropped “the” for this go-round, is based inside New Leaf, a community market and natural grocery store in Santa Cruz.
There is so much I want to share with you about my visit.
One very special detail is to show you Teresa’s signature hand-tied floral Posie that she created for me, the concept of which we discuss in the Podcast.
It’s very special and I loved the sentiment and the gesture.
She also introduced me to SlowCoast.org, a fabulous collective that brings artists, farmers, activists and naturalists together to celebrate and promote local commerce in the 50-mile coastal stretch between Santa Cruz and Half Moon Bay.
Teresa put together a lovely breakfast gathering to welcome me and invited other Slow-minded folks to join us. The morning was hosted by SlowCoast manager Libby Patterson and cofounder Dana Nichols. It blew me away to feel such a warm embrace of what Slow Flowers is all about. So I thank everyone who came to engage in the larger conversation of slow-ness.
Needless to say, I believe that Teresa is a true Slow Flowers pioneer. Here’s how she describes herself on the Bonny Doon Garden Co. web site:
I am a flower-obsessed, nature-lover, tree-hugger and avid gardener who continues to wonder at the miracle of nature. Since 1999, as owner and founder of Bonny Doon Garden Company, my design principles are driven by everything around us in the natural world. Rivers, vineyards, meadows and woodlands, and of course, the garden. It all begins in the garden where we cultivate and cut our flowers, herbs, foliage along with accents of vines, berries & seed pods. And we love delivering them right to you, whether you’re looking for a fresh seasonal arrangement for delivery, or planning a wedding, or hosting a party.
I have a meticulously devoted team of designers ready to deliver that special floral arrangement for you today! They are like family to me (some are!) and we are all committed to celebrating our region’s native flora. Along with our own cutting gardens, we are proud to partner with local farms to bring seasonal flowers to our clients during the growing season. We also work with other American and European growers to source ethically and sustainably grown blooms throughout the year.
When Amy Stewart wrote the foreword to The 50 Mile Bouquet in 2012, she again cited Teresa, writing: “She’d found a way to take her excessively abundant garden and turn it into a business, selling flowers from a stall on the street and doing arrangements for weddings and special occasions. . . what I had not seen, until I talked to Teresa, was a passion for seasonal, local flowers that look like they came straight out of the garden – and often did.”
I can’t tell you how inspiring it was to meet from Teresa and to learn more about what drives her creativity and passion. Please be sure to follow her at all her social places (see below) and if you find yourself in Santa Cruz, well, now you know where to find her.
Bonny Doon Garden Co. on Facebook
Bonny Doon Garden Co. on Instagram
Bonny Doon Garden Co. on Pinterest
Thank you so much for joining me this week and please return again, as I continue to share insightful and educational episodes recorded exclusively for the Slow Flowers Podcast.
We’ve had another record-breaking month! Last episode I announced that listeners like you have downloaded the podcast more than 40,000 times.
March 2015 was our single-highest audience month ever, exceeding 4,500 downloads; last week was our single-highest week ever, with 1,200 downloads. Wow – we’re on a roll! Until next week please join me in putting more American grown flowers on the table, one vase at a time.
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The content and opinions expressed here are either mine alone or those of my guests alone, independent of any podcast sponsor or other person, company or organization.
The Slow Flowers Podcast is engineered and edited by Andrew Wheatley and Hannah Holtgeerts. Learn more about their work at shellandtree.com.