I first met Lorena back in the winter of 2013 when I took her floral design class in SF — I had recently developed an obsession with flower arranging. Her class was completely full, and mostly with women. Everyone was energetic with anticipation, we could see piles of flowers set up just feet away from us, just waiting to be jostled into an eclectic bouquet. Lorena swept into class, all energy and huge smiles, wearing a wide-brimmed free-spirited sort of hat that I suspect is a sartorial trademark of hers (I've barely seen her when she wasn't wearing one, unless she was showing off a floral crown, which is one of her specialties). As class started, all of us in the room were pretty much instantly enchanted. It's fun to listen to Lorena talk about what she loves, and she talks fast, so you learn a lot even in a short amount of time.
stockIt took a little over a year for the two of us to line up our crazy schedules again so that I could interview Lorena for this series. Her business is Home Sweet Flowers, which started with her partner David, and it's been vibrantly expanding. She has bouquets for sale around the city in shops like Mission Pie, a flower truck that she takes from markets to events in the San Francisco sunshine, she teaches classes at Workshop SF, and has been creating floral masterpieces for weddings and events. She's got even more than that planned for her future, she's a busy woman.
But as we started chatting last month, it was undeniable that her love for flowers goes to a much deeper level than just expanding a successful business. She loves people and making connections, and her medium of choice for doing so is flowers. She uses her art to touch people, to bring them together, and it's something that we could all use a bit more of in our lives. Read more about Lorena's floral connection below:
How did your love of flowers get started?
Ever since I was a little girl, I always liked to play by myself. Rather than play with a lot of friends, I would love to go do my own thing, and be in my own imagination. My grandma had a huge garden, she came over from Mexico and that was the one thing she wanted, a massive garden. She had a huge avocado tree, and I would climb into it and hide from her, jump out at her randomly. Or I would just be under her hydrangea bushes. You would find me in the garden, and the flowers became in a way my friends. I would just turn the petals upside down and it would be a dress, or a doll. It just seemed really natural for me to make bouquets out of them, put them in my hair and make crowns, and give them to people.
It wasn’t until I was in college and I was up in the Bay Area, walking by a flower shop that I realized this is what I want to be doing. Working there is where I learned simple things
through experience, how to make a bouton-niere, how to make a corsage. And that’s where I got to learning all of the flower names.
There I realized how expensive flowers were, and it made me feel really bad when a guy would want to make a pretty bouquet for his girlfriend, and we would choose like five stems and it would be 50 bucks. I thought, "Oh my God no, that’s not right. I want it to be more accessible.” I wanted it just to be a little more me, for my energy to be included. So I started my own business with my partner, David. He’s kind of the business guy, he does the website and the marketing. I do more of the creative portion, mingling with the people. We wanted to make it not incredibly expensive, reasonably priced, as local as we could.
But I do want to take a second to say that, one thing that does drive me is the fact that I grew up in a garden, it is my grandma. Every time I go see her I say I am a florist, and it’s because
of you. I have my business, and it’s because of you. I love that tribute to her. I feel like my love of flowers is my love for her, and I can share that with everybody.
PEOPLE STRUGGLE to FIND A PROFESSION WITH MEANING. And A BIG PART OF THIS SERIES IS TO HIGHLIGHT WOMEN WHO HAVE.
You have meaning, your gut and your drive, but then it’s about how you express that to the masses. How do you convey that emotion to everyone else? That’s a different ballgame.
I THINK YOU DO A GREAT JOB WITH THAT! LIKE IN YOUR CLASSES...
Those are great because that’s one outlet where I can express my mad crush for flowers. But I would like to have more ways that I could do that. I am constantly searching for that, because I think there’s more than “Here’s a bouquet” — it’s an art. It’s a piece of art that I’m giving you, it’s a piece of my heart that I’m giving you.
HOW DID YOU GET INVOLVED WITH WORKSHOP SF?
I was dying my hair completely purple, I was in the salon, and it takes a long time. So I was talking to the hairstylist, and somehow it came up about how she teaches classes at Workshop. I looked it up later, and I thought — hey, they don’t have anything flower related, maybe I should approach her.
That’s what it’s all about when you first start a business, you just need to put yourself out there. And it’s so vulnerable, but I remember meeting with Kelly, one of the owners of Workshop. She was psyched about it and I was psyched about it and we immediately just put in on the books. My first class was the flower design class. I realized, holy shit, I have a lot to say! I have so much wisdom in my brain that I can share with people, I love being a teacher!
So our relationship grew with workshop, and I thought, “Why don’t we rent the space during the day? No one else is here.” We already have a partnership and a connection, so rather than going and renting a space with people that we don’t know and paying an arm and a leg, what if we collaborate?
So we’re here during the day, from 10-5, then we clean up and there’s classes at night. A lot of times I’m the teacher giving that class, so it’s an easy transition. Workshop SF is a great little community like no other that I’ve ever seen, so we’re still stoked to know them.
Where do you source your flowers? You go to the Flower Mart?
I go there three times a week, at least. The reason I go there so often is because I like the flowers to be as fresh as can be, so I only get what I know that I’ll need to actually use. I don’t like to have anything just sitting in the fridge, or even more than three days. I like it to be fresh, fresh, fresh.
You kind of just have to take a field trip in the Flower Mart, and it’s the best place because it’s the biggest in the country, and the best in the country, especially according to Martha Stewart, so you have to take it seriously. Because, she thinks so so that means it’s true, right? Hahaha. But really, you can get all sorts of flowers. Imported flowers, local flowers anything you dream of is there. I even once saw
someone selling an empty yellow jacket hive, a beehive — you can find some crazy stuff there.
It was just a matter of walking around and talking to the local farmers, and researching where they’re based and if what they grow themselves. But the other thing is that, let’s say I go to Repetto's Nursery, he’s based in Half Moon Bay. It’s tricky, because farms also buy from each other. And sometimes those flowers aren’t local, so maybe he gets his stock from Los Angeles, which is still California-grown. That’s why you constantly have to ask to see, “Where did you get this? Is this California grown?” Just because it’s Repetto Nursery doesn’t mean everything is from Half Moon Bay. You have to really ask and know what’s growing in season.
AND YOU TRY TO DO ALL LOCAL STUFF?
I try! Again, sometimes you just don’t know… I think at the beginning I was more like, “Only local! Only California!” But I also think that supporting your local farmer and local economy is equally as important as where the flowers actually come from. Say it’s imported, you’re still supporting that local farmer because he has it. It’s a toss-up.
IT’S LUCKY BECAUSE YOU’RE IN CALIFORNIA, TOO, BECAUSE SO MUCH CAN BE GROWN HERE…
I’ve tried to grow a garden in my backyard. I have a big lilac tree, daffodils and bulbs, but I notice I’d go to cut it and put in bouquets, and I’d be like, "Wait! Now I don’t have anything." I only do that on special occasions. But I think you’d definitely have to have a prop of land to really give it away. Maybe in the future we could have a little farm, that would be a dream.
I was going to ask about your future plans…
What’s great about flowers is that there’s so many little segues, so many outlets you can go into. When I first started I thought, I don’t want to do weddings. I just had this stupid stereotype of brides or whatever — maybe that shouldn’t be in the blog post because brides will hate me, haha. But then more and more people liked my bouquets and asked if I do weddings. And it built, now we do weddings and events. I actually really love them because you can make something so personal, and you can become
intimate with that client. I know we’ll definitely do more weddings, events, it’s just fun.
What else? Ideally, I love Workshop, but I would love my own studio. Just to completely make it my own. That would be my next dream, but it's really pricy in the city. We started completely out of our pockets, no loans, no backers, just what was in the bank. So I think we’ve come a long-ass way!
It’d be fun to have another Home Sweet Flowers in a different city — maybe Santa Barbara, where I was raised, or Venice Beach! To extend ourselves, because now we work with Postmates, they’re based in LA. So maybe we can go to LA and work with them there. We do bouquets for Whole Foods, so maybe we could move to Santa Barbara and do The Whole Foods there. The possibilities are endless in that sense, because of the connections we’ve made.
But more than that, a lot of my classes are all women. I sit in awe that they want to be here and do something creative, they want to just bask in the beauty of a flower. Sometimes I
want to touch on that deep love and that deep meaning, and connect these women who are here under this roof. There’s a deep vibe going on here, I want to touch on that! Let’s get emotional. Because I think flowers can be really healing, they can be really meditational.
and of course for my last question — WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE FLOWERS?
Since I grew up around my grandma’s hydrangeas, I love garden hydrangea. They’re stunning to me. That’s the emotional connection. And of course, I love flowers that smell beautiful. I love jasmine, I love gardenias. I’m also a fan of greens, so like rosemary, mint, eucalyptus. All those are really healing smells. Obviously I use a lot of decorational kale, I love kale. I was born in Spring, in April, so of course I’m also a really big fan of spring flowers. Tulips, ranunculus, all those flowers that blossom out of a bulb, hyacinth. Usually they don’t have the longest lifespan, but I like that. That fleeting love. So yeah, flowers that smell good, hydrangea, and spring bulbs.