We don't just cover the North Bay. We live here.
Did You Know? In the first 10 days of the North Bay fire, nearly 1.5 million people used their mobile devices to visit our sites.
Already a subscriber?
Wow! You read a lot!
Reading enhances confidence, empathy, decision-making, and overall life satisfaction. Keep it up! Subscribe.
Already a subscriber?
Oops, you're out of free articles.
Until next month, you can always look over someone's shoulder at the coffee shop.
Already a subscriber?
We don't just cover the North Bay. We live here.
Did You Know? In the first 10 days of the North Bay fire, we posted 390 stories about the fire. And they were shared nearly 137,000 times.
Already a subscriber?
Supporting the community that supports us.
Obviously you value quality local journalism. Thank you.
Already a subscriber?
Oops, you're out of free articles.
We miss you already! (Subscriptions start at just 99 cents.)
Already a subscriber?

Sequoia Floral International in Santa Rosa is offering a class at 4 p.m., Saturday, March 31 on how to make a spring floral arrangement, perfect for Easter or any other occasion. The cost is $40 and includes all materials. Find out more at sequoiafloral.com.

Spring flowers are the most precious. After a long winter of grayness, the first colorful blooms popping out into a barren landscape appear all the more dazzling.

On Sonoma County’s flower farms, it’s ranunculus flowers, anemones, hellebores, daffodils and Icelandic poppies that are making an appearance for Easter and other springtime celebrations. And without much competition, they stand out like stars in a clear black sky.

“Ranunculus and anemones go hand in hand as early spring flowers, planted from corms. They’re the flower a lot of us anticipate all winter, because we plant them in the fall and nurse them along through the winter, babying them until they’re the first to bloom” said Hedda Brorstrom, the owner of Full Bloom Farm and Floral Design in Graton. “They’re hope for the rest of the season, and reassure us the sun is on its way.”

When it comes to spring celebrations, most people reach for the ubiquitous Easter Lily (Lilium longiflorum), a white trumpet with a heavy scent, sold typically as a potted plant. More than 90 percent of the world’s Easter lilies are cultivated by a handful of growers in Smith River in Del Norte County, up near the Oregon border. So most are California grown.

But for something even fresher and closer to home, look to the many, tiny cut-flower farms that are cropping up in Wine Country. Some growers sell direct. But their cuttings can be found at farmers markets and places like Sequoia Floral in Santa Rosa, and Andy’s Produce Market and The Sonoma Flower Mart, both in Sebastopol.

The big three early spring focal blooms are ranunculuses, anemones and hellebores. They’re so showy you don’t have to be a trained floral designer to simply place them in a vase. Or gather them up with some of spring’s pretty filler flowers, wet some oasis and make a simple arrangement in an Easter Basket or some other sweet, springlike container like “the birdhouses” at Sequoia. Use them for a table centerpiece or Easter gift.

Ranunculus blooms in vivid colors and is known for its layers and layers of delicate petals.

“All the brides tell me it’s their favorite flower. It’s the quintessential Easter flower,” said Lennie Larkin, a grower and floral designer, who tends the half-acre B-Side Farm in Sebastopol. She grows flowers for her own business and sells to other designers.

She is drawn to the classic black and white anemone — white petals with a black center.

The early spring blooms don’t hang around for long. Once temperatures get consistently into the 70s they’ll start to fade. So you have to be careful to plant them at the right time so they flower while it’s still cool, Larkin said.

The other spring focal flower is hellebore, frequently called “The Lenten Rose” because of its rose-like flowers that appear in early spring around the Christian observance of Lent.

Hellebore is a perennial and grown in the shade. Brorstrom said it has a different way of hydrating, which may trip up people not in the know.

“You have to wait until the center of the flower is fully mature; then you cut it and put the flowers in a full bucket of water or a glass of water. It drinks not only from the bottom of the stem but the entire surface area of the stem. Some people have trouble keeping them in arrangements because they need special hydrating,” Brorstrom said. “If you’re harvesting from your own garden, wait until they’re mature and let them sit in a full glass of water for a couple of hours.”

Mixed Reds



Decoy, 2014 Sonoma County Merlot, 13.9%, $25. ★★★★

This seamless merlot has quite a range -- black cherry, blackberry, cocoa and leather. It has bright acidity, ripe tannins and a lingering finish. A smart buy.


Miner, 2013 Emily’s Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, 14.5%, $53. ★★★★1/2: This cab is weighted to black fruit with aromas and flavors of toast and mocha. Nice length. Lovely.

Napanook, 2013 Napa Valley Red, 15%, $70. ★★★★1/2: This is a lush, hedonistic wine that’s striking. It has notes of black currant, anise and black pepper. Meaty and slightly earthy, with a round texture, it’s knockout.

Peachy Canyon, 2014 California Zinfandel, 14.5%, $15. ★★★1/2: A tasty zin with notes of black cherry, smoke and toffee. Hint of vanilla. Balanced. Spot on.

The Lost Colony, 2014 Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County Red Wine, 13.5%, $18. ★★★: A fruit-forward red with notes of toast and sandalwood. Concentrated. Bright acid. Tasty.


Peg Melnik’s Tasting Room blog

Icelandic poppies are also emerging into the landscape. They come in a rainbow of colors, and in colors to suit your taste whether you’re into pastels or favor more vivid hues. There is a series called Champagne Bubbles with blooms in an effervescent array of colors.

For something with rustic elegance, snip some flowering tree branches for an arrangement –– quince, plum or apple blossoms work nicely. They’re readily available in your own yard or maybe a neighbor would share a branch.

“I love them alone in a vase,” Larkin said. “They can really decorate a corner and take up some space. They’re also great as a backbone for an arrangement. It’s a nice contrasting using branches with buds starting to open, contrasted with a bigger, fluffier flower like a ranunculus in front.

Sequoia Floral International in Santa Rosa is offering a class at 4 p.m., Saturday, March 31 on how to make a spring floral arrangement. In about an hour, one could put together a complete arrangement in a birdhouse-shaped container in time for Easter Sunday. The cost is $40 and includes all materials.

“We’re going to be using local rununculus and local tulips and also some local Sonoma County daffodils. Everything else will be California local,” said Alyssa Devincenzi, who is the assistant manager of the retail store at Sequoia, as well as a supply buyer and designer.

Among the flowers she will have on hand are snapdragons, solidaster (AKA goldenrod), chrysanthemums and purple irises.

To make your own, soak some oasis foam for 20 to 30 minutes in a container and trim until it is just snug in the container. Devinvenzi likes to use 5 to 6 different flowers, anchoring with her tallest flow, almost stair-stepping them down from the tallest, such as a snapdragon, down to shorter levels of ranunculus and tulip.

She works in counts of threes and fives and groups them together. Fill in with greenery more toward the bottom. To give it an Easter touch, said Devincenzi, tuck in a couple of eggs, supporting them in place with wooden picks.

You can reach Staff Writer Meg McConahey at 707-521-5204 or meg.mcconahey@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @megmcconahey.

Show Comment