Editor Kendra Aronson here again! I'm back with my bimonthly Q & A column showcasing florists that I highly admire in the field-to-vase movement. Today I'd like to gush over Asha Renew of Wilder Floral Co., a talented florist and calligrapher in my charming little town of San Luis Obispo. Wilder Floral Co. is the cute little flower shop on the corner of Chorro & Pismo—you can’t miss the bold black painted building, the elegant gold lettered signage, and the classic striped awning. Owner Asha Renew creates the most breathtaking, luscious, whimsical floral arrangements. She sources her gorgeous goods from local growers and farms, including the speciality garden roses she has become known for. Additionally she supplements her seasonal arrangements with ingredients from SLOcal farmers’ markets and her own backyard cuttings. Check out previous Q & A posts and stay tuned for the next one in two months!
Q & A with the Editor &
Field to Vase Florist Wilder Floral Co.
What is your background?
I’ve always been a creative and an artist. As far back as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to be the girl on the corner in some quaint beach town selling my craft. When I started my career path, I began as a graphic designer and illustrator. During that time, I worked on wedding styling and calligraphy as another creative channel and artistic outlet. Over the years I realized that working with nature and botanical design kept pulling me in. I couldn’t get enough of it and that was when I realized this was my true passion. The natural progression seemed to lead me towards refocusing my creative efforts and sense of design towards floral design. I feel very fortunate to be doing my craft and something that I so dearly love in such a beautiful place. In many ways, opening up my corner flower shop has been a dream come true.
How and when did you start your floral business?
Wilder Floral Co. officially launched January of 2014. It all happened with a lot of hard work, planning, visualization, and goal-setting. Ultimately though, the universe seemed to align and everything seemed to just fall into place. Shortly after hosting my first pop-up shop for Valentine’s Day, I had the opportunity to open up my very first brick-and-mortar, and it just so happened to be on the established corner of Chorro & Pismo…where I had always pictured ending up. Already ahead of the goals I had set, I was ready to take the leap. And by May 1st, I held my grand opening. It felt so great to see all the dreaming and planning I had put behind starting my own brand materialize into a reality.
What inspired you to become florist?
One day, when I was six years old, the door bell rang. I eagerly ran to answer it but no one was there—except a small, colorful bunch of wispy, dainty wildflowers from the field at the end of our cul-de-sac. When I picked them up I noticed a handcrafted tag wrapped around their loose stems; writing similar to my own adolescent lettering read ‘Happy May Day’. From then on I've known I wanted to bring that type of love, natural beauty, and joy to others. I'll never forget that feeling.
Where do your source your flowers?
Wilder Floral Co. sources floral products primarily from California growers and currently the majority of our product comes from right here in San Luis Obispo County. We have so many wonderful local growers and farms including the specialty garden roses that we have become so well known for. In addition, I love to supplement ingredients from the local farmers' market and with my own cuttings right from my backyard here in SLO.
What does it mean to you to be part of the field-to-vase movement?
I care deeply about protecting our environment that so graciously gives so much to us.
What sets you and your business apart from other local florists?
I like to think of the customers’ experience at Wilder Floral Co. similarly to a foodie experience at a high-end restaurant, where the chef has carefully selected a few artisanal menu items. The menu options at Wilder Floral Co. are very much based on what ingredients I’ve cultivated for the week. I love it when customers ask for the “designers' choice” when ordering. Understandably some customers might find it a little surprising that I don’t carry every requested flower or have things that they’re used to seeing at every Teleflora and FTD florist, but once they hear the reasons why, most customers seem to really embrace my very selective menu. I believe in a certain standard for the products I have, which specifically are locally sourced, and that standard follows the product all the way though to the end creation itself. It’s not what a lot of customers are used to from typical florists but I’m excited about how well received my style is and how much customers seem to appreciate my ethics.
What is your design philosophy when it comes to arranging flowers?
When I set out to create Wilder Floral Co. it wasn’t to open up another generic flower shop. Wilder Floral Co. was born out of the idea that high-end, luxury florals aren’t just for weddings. I believe people deserve well designed botanical beauty every day. As a company, I seek to challenge the idea that “florist”means carnations and stiff roses. I’m passionate about promoting a more natural and unique beauty such as what’s being seen on the wedding front, as available for the every day.
How do you describe your flower arranging style?
My design aesthetic is inspired by the natural world, using wild fruit or vines, and unique, fragrant, antique roses and elements that lend to organic textures and shape. It wouldn’t be unlike me to tuck a cluster of grapes or even baby tomatoes on the vine or bolted cilantro into a Wilder bouquet! Wilder Floral Co. arrangements overall are romantic and lush with a balance between refined and natural imperfections. The arrangements themselves are distinctive and seasonal, using locally sourced and premium flowers.
What are your favorite springtime flowers and why?
I find most florists have a hard time answering the favorite flower question, but for me nothing comes close to a true English garden rose—the kind that are often depicted in old Dutch Masters paintings; petals upon petals, layered and unfolding to reveal a warm, Old Rose fragrance. They come in every color imaginable and so many different ruffled patterns and shapes. Every year I discover a new favorite variety. This year it is Wollerton Old Hall—a soft, creamy, chalice-shaped rose named after a private garden in the U.K. surrounding a 16th Century Hall.
What is the most exciting or challenging aspect about designing with seasonal flowers?
I get excited about going back to our roots and connecting or being in tune with nature. Designing with local or seasonal plants is a constant learning experience. Not just learning new plants or flowers that I otherwise would never have known, but I love to take it one step further and familiarize myself with the medicinal or healing properties of those plants as well. I think of it in the same way as if we ate only what was in season. It’s a more holistic, big picture way of thinking.