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.”
THIS WEEK’S BLIND TASTING
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.