Linda Arietta of Country Essences Flowers works her own brand of magic for local brides-to-be
Remember the fairy godmother in the Disney movie Cinderella? With a wave of her magic wand the ethereal lady turned pumpkins into coaches and mice into men, spoiling Cinderella rotten one enchanted evening by giving her everything her heart desired. In the Central Coast wedding industry, consider Linda Arietta of Country Essences Flowers your very own personal fairy godmother that will make you feel like royalty as you marry your own Prince Charming—glass slippers not included.
When you choose Country Essences Flowers to provide the buds for your nuptials, you simply can’t go wrong. Arietta has technically been arranging flowers her entire life. “I did flowers with my mother when I was a little girl,” she remembers fondly. “I helped do the arrangements at the church.” Outside of the traditional wedding season of May through September, Arietta does flowers for local businesses and corporations such as Shadowbrook in Capitola, and teaches flower-arranging classes for area country clubs, schools and women’s groups. Add that to the fact that this floral maven has owned and tended her own flower ranch for the past 40 years—doing between 60 and 70 weddings per year I might add—and you’ve got a florist that really knows her ABC’s (as in azaleas, begonias, chrysanthemums).
“My ranch is an extension of me,” Arietta lovingly says. Brilliant blossoms create a kaleidoscopic array of colors bursting from nearly every square inch of her 10-acre ranch. In fact, at any given time more than 40 different flower types spring from the earth on this little patch of heaven in rural Watsonville. “It’s hard to name them because they are seasonal,” Arietta says. “But right now we have tulips, ranunculuses and other spring blossoms. In the summer time we’ll have zinnias, marigolds and sunflowers, along with the more unusual flowers such as bells of Ireland and bachelor buttons. And we always have masses of sweet peas.” Arietta grew up farming locally and she now manages her own farm as well as her brother’s and mother’s adjoining farms which she recently inherited. “I’m really passionate about it. I love flowers—they are my life,” Arietta explains tenderly, a new warmth entering her already soothing voice.
“There’s so much variety, my job is to point them in the right direction” —Linda Arietta
For brides on a budget, Country Essences Flowers is a particular godsend. Arietta explains that it’s not unusual for florists to have a minimum order of $3,000 or more, and if a bride doesn’t meet that minimum order they will decline service. “I always, always design to fit the bride’s budget,” she says. “Whether it’s $500 or $5,000 that they have allocated to flowers, there’s always a budget. But I still want to accommodate their hopes and dreams. We’ve all seen the Martha Stewart Weddings magazine, but what brides don’t realize is that many of the bouquets in there are $500 bouquets.” Arietta does have some excellent tips to help brides-to-be cut costs on flowers without sacrificing on quality. “Definitely go with flowers that are in season,” she says. “Also, you should trust your designer to go with flowers that are in season that perhaps you haven’t thought of. It’s wonderful to give your designer the leeway to add flowers that may have come into season since you’ve talked together. A little flexibility is wonderful. I have brides that want tulips in August and they have to be shipped from Holland.” Arietta explains that if brides do end up choosing flowers that are out of season, not only are they insanely expensive but what happens is that the flowers aren’t very hardy and end up wilting or dropping petals at the slightest hint of sun or breeze—which may end up being before a wedding ceremony or reception has even begun. Out- of-season flowers simply don’t hold up because they aren’t meant to be alive in those weather conditions during that time of year. “It is just not wise to do flowers that are not in season,” she shares.
“It is just not wise to do flowers that are not in season.” —Linda Arietta
Speaking of seasons, according to Arietta, wedding season 2010 is all about simple, contemporary, clean lines. “Brides are using only one kind of flower. There’s a lot of white and green, and also a lot of red weddings. Plus there’s always the smattering of pink and blue,” she says. Another trend that she recognizes in our current economy is that more couples are choosing to have smaller, more intimate weddings that take place many times at the family home. “Brides are saving money wherever they can,” Arietta adds.
Traditionally, centerpieces are always the biggest expense in a wedding in Arietta’s experience of almost 3,000 weddings over the years. “You can have flexibility in price with ceremony flowers and centerpieces,” this expert explains. “The general range is $35 to $75 on a centerpiece, but they can be as low as $25 or as high as $125. You shouldn’t spend more than $125 per centerpiece.” Arietta goes on to share how there are really a plethora of options, such as floating flowers in a vase or DIY (Do-it-Yourself) centerpieces, so no matter what amount the bride has allocated for blooms, there is no reason to believe that the flowers can’t be tasteful and elegant—even on the slenderest of budgets. “There’s so much variety,” Arietta says. “My job is to point them in the right direction and show them how to stay in their budget.”
One option for industrious brides is to take the DIY trail—an increasingly popular option these days on everything from invitations to cakes. Arietta offers floral arranging classes on her ranch that will allow brides and wedding parties to become minor experts in the field and thereby cut the costs of hiring Arietta’s services as a floral design expert. “Generally what you are paying for in a florist is the design work,” confesses Arietta. “Complexity of design and quantity of flowers are very important and have to be considered in the budget.” Many brides simply purchase buds in bulk from Country Essences Flowers and hope for the best come their big day.
“what you are paying for in a florist is the design work.”—Linda Arietta
In addition to offering complete florist packages for weddings, floral arranging classes and selling loose flowers to DIY brides, Arietta rents out facilities on her ranch and her mother’s ranch as wedding venues. Think about it, tying the knot surrounded by tens of thousands of blooming blossoms? A wedding can’t get any more romantic than that. “We always have a few weddings a year,” recalls Arietta. “I also just inherited my mother’s property this year, so now we have two venues up here. My mother’s venue is wonderful and there are a lot of gardens, barns and buildings, including an old craftsman style house. We call it Marie’s Garden, named after my mother. She loved to garden.”
“when the mother of the bride thinks that she’s the one getting married and she tries to impose her ideas”—Linda Arietta
Arietta rents out the ranches on a sliding scale basis according to how many people will be in attendance at the wedding. Generally, she says it is a bargain in this area at $1,800 to $2,000. Her mother’s ranch, which includes more structures in which to utilize, goes for between $2,500 to $3,000 per day.
Arietta has a few more helpful tips to ensure the flowers that surround you when you tie the knot are impeccable. “My advice is definitely to collect pictures of flowers and get a good idea of what you want,” she shares. “A lot of brides come with a blank palette which makes it kind of hard to give advice because we have a lot of variable situations. It’s challenging if a bride doesn’t have a visual and she cannot get the idea of what we’re visualizing. In that case I will try to do a sample piece. But that’s okay, because some of the girls just need to see the hands on,” Arietta says. Another challenging situation that Arietta sometimes faces is “when the mother of the bride thinks that she’s the one getting married and she tries to impose her ideas,” she laughs. So moms should keep in mind that mum’s the word. “But always remember to try to choose flowers in season, and don’t be shy about your budget. I don’t want a bride to think she can’t have beautiful flowers because she’s on a tight budget,” she concludes.
And there you have it, just like in the Disney fairy tale. Sure Arietta may use a garden spade instead of a magic wand, but this virtual fairy godmother will whip up gorgeous blooms that are sure to last until midnight without turning into pumpkins.
For more information about Country Essences Flowers, visit countryessencesflowers.com or call 722-4549.
For the complete guide to the Bridal Expo at the Cocoanut Grove click here.