Twenty-six years ago, Bonnie Z ran out of space for her garden at her home in Point Richmond. She had a background in textiles and was looking for a property with a larger house, larger studio and larger garden. However, when Z purchased her six acres of property off Westside Road in Healdsburg, she got a larger garden, smaller house and no studio.
The existing Healdsburg property had been home to a vineyard, but Z removed this along with all the other plants on the property except one walnut tree and one fig tree. The first thing she planted on her new property was a silver maple, which now towers over her thriving business and reminds her of the time which has passed.
Z’s business, Dragonfly Farm, started out growing specialty vegetables on the six acres, experimenting with emerging vegetable species. She recalls the “early days” as a time when she “really had to convince people that new vegetables such as the cherry tomato might be worth eating.”
She began selling her vegetables, including sunflowers, at farmers’ markets as well as to local chefs and restaurants. She was also selling sunflowers to Jimtown Store, a small source of business that became a pivotal turning point for Dragonfly Farm.
Carrie Brown, Jimtown Store’s owner, lined up the first wedding where Z would provide all the floral arrangements. It didn’t take long for the flower business to become front and center and replace the vegetables as Dragonfly Farm became Dragonfly Floral.
Z now runs Dragonfly Floral alongside her daughter, Carlisle Degischer. Z meets with clients to plan weddings and manages the garden while Degischer manages the website, office and community outreach.
While weddings are a large part of Dragonfly Floral’s business, they also deliver one of a kind arrangements throughout Northern Sonoma County. Dragonfly Floral does nearly 80-90 weddings per year plus miscellaneous events such as parties and rehearsal dinners.
Z said there is a lot of organization that goes into planning arrangements for a wedding. There are meetings with brides and estimates before creating the floral pieces.
“Now, with Pinterest, it’s a blessing. You can see reoccurring themes throughout their boards.” Z said she asks her clients using Pinterest to send boards only with floral arrangements; it helps the brides refine their thinking and vision about the wedding.
Z said in addition to Pinterest, there is a lot more information available now than when she started. Originally, she learned through books, and while she still takes the opportunity to look through them, the internet can offer quick answers to most problems.
While technology has changed her business, so has what customers want. Z has seen trends of customers wanting locally grown products, something she has been doing since the start. She hopes that in the future, most of her clients and projects will only be local.
Degischer has a 5 year old son, Oliver, and Z said she couldn’t imagine a better place for her grandson to grow up. Z describes their garden as a special place and said they are always looking to make it better and share it with others.
Sharing with their community is important to the team at Dragonfly Floral. On Sunday, they leave all their leftover flowers on the porch and encourage the community to take the flowers and leave a donation. For those that don’t have the financial means to pay for the flowers, they encourage people to leave a token of appreciation that might be in the form of a thank you, poem, drawing, et cetera.
Even though they have been at the same location for 26 years, there are still people stopping by saying they have always driven past but weren’t quite sure what to make of the business.
Degischer echoes this sentiment. “Our never ending challenge is curb appeal,” she said.
The rest of the team calls Degischer the invisible force behind the business.
With her focus on the back of the house, Degischer said she is still passionate about the property and building community relationships over time. She said they hope to be more involved and support more fundraising efforts in the future. In September, the Dragonfly team is working on a big fundraiser for Compassion without Borders, a Santa Rosa based non-profit dedicated to animals in need.
Z said she has a terrific team of designers who all started out with no experience. They also have a partnership with Pam Bell who offers apprenticeships, Tuesday evening meditation classes and more at the farm. Together, the team is passionate about two things: the land and growing local flowers.
The team has a lot planned for the upcoming year, starting with Mother’s Day where Dragonfly is providing vases and flowers so people can come and make their own arrangements. Costs range from $5 – $30 and Dragonfly Floral provides vases, water and gloves.
For more information visit www.dragonflyhealdsburg.com.