Petaluma Profile: Tali Bouskila spends long hours with flowers

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According to extensive online research, flowers overpower candy or perfume and all other gifts on Valentine’s Day. Which is why Tali Bouskila and her team of designers at Flower Casita have been so busy this week.

“Based on last year, we will have 50 percent orders and 50 percent walk-ins for Thursday pickups and deliveries,” says Bouskila. “I’ve been creating flower arrangements since I was a 14-year-old in Marin, and I always look forward to having the 15th and 16th as days of rest. Except this year we have a wedding event that weekend, so I can’t relax until later.”

Bouskila was 6-months pregnant when she opened her Petaluma flower shop in the fall of 2015.

“My brother and I had an events company doing weddings in San Francisco, but I had always wanted a brick and mortar retail flower shop,” she says. “I knew Petaluma pretty well, and we have several friends who live here. So we found this little spot in the theater district across from the candy shop, and it’s perfect.”

Originally called 2nd Street Flowers, that name proved to be a little problematic since the shop is actually located in the pedestrian courtyard that runs between 2nd Street and Petaluma Boulevard. It sits under a striped awning, with a painted sign saying “Flowers,” and with succulents and cut blossoms on shelves outside. Using the size of the shop as a talisman, the store’s new name is Flower Casita (Spanish for “little flower shop”). As Bouskila points out, the compact inside space is well used.

“We have a designer’s studio, and retail display space, as well as room to support the preparations for events and celebrations, to hold workshops and educations, and meet and serve the community,” she says.

One surprise this close to Valentine’s Day is the limited number of red roses that are visible in the shop.

“We’ve learned that our clientele doesn’t want a ton of roses,” Bouskila says. “They are very appreciative of the locally-sourced flowers and buds provided by our neighboring farms — some from growers who only use an acre or less to focus on specific species and colors. We in the business know that there are flower people and not-flower people. As a rule, men want to take home something showy, while women often have a color palette or fragrance in mind. For people who aren’t sure what they want, we work with them or suggest our ‘Designer’s Choice’ arrangements. It’s always smart to order in advance. That way we can shop for you and get exactly what you want.”

Bouskila points out that flower designers and chefs have a lot in common.

“We want to make a presentation that captivates the senses and leaves a lasting memory,” she says. “Both deal with a perishable product — flowers even more than food — and you can’t freeze flowers to use in a casserole.”

Like a good meal, a lovely flower arrangement takes time and skill.

“It isn’t just placing flowers in a vase,” Bouskila points out. “It is the years of experience and experimentation, the prep work, the selecting flowers from wholesalers and local growers, the listening carefully to your customers, understanding the theme of a wedding or corporate event and designing accordingly. And you can’t leave out the overhead, the staff training and the community involvement.”

During this interview, a customer selects several succulents and brings them inside. Finding out that they will be in direct afternoon sun every day, Bouskila deftly directs the woman to some dried flowers that don’t need watering.

“People need to know a houseplant’s needs before adopting them,” she says “For example, on frosty nights, sensitive plants should be away from windows.”

While cutting the stems for a wrapped arrangement, Bouskila explains how to make Valentine bouquets last awhile.

“Trim the stems when they are unwrapped,” she says. “Start with warm water for woody plants so they absorb it faster. Change the water if it turns cloudy, remove any stems that lose their blooms, and enjoy the beauty.”

(Contact Gil Mansegh at gilmansergh@comcast.net)

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