Episode 246: Perfect Harmony with Flower Duet of Los Angeles
May 18th, 2016
A few weeks ago you heard my conversation with Mike A. Mellano of Mellano & Co., a third generation flower farm in based in San Luis Rey, California. If you missed that episode, check it out here.
Mike was our farmer-host of the 2nd Field to Vase Dinner held at the famed Flower Fields in Carlsbad, north of San Diego, on April 13th. We discussed his Italian heritage that brought grandfather Giovanni Mellano to the U.S., as well as the founding of Mellano & Co. in 1928. We also talked about the current landscape for American grown flowers and attempted to forecast the future of our domestic flower-farming renaissance.
Today’s guests were also intimately involved in that dinner and they are part of the reason why Mike and I feel so optimistic about the future.
It is designers like Casey Coleman Schwartz and Kit Wertz, partners in Flower Duet, who are making a conscious effort to source their flowers and foliage from local farms in Southern California.
Sisters, Casey and Kit were the featured floral designers who created a lush, textural tablescape, wowing 150 guests seated at a farm table stretching between rows of a rainbow of Mellano-grown ranunculus. So the following morning we sat down to record this conversation.
I’ve known Kit and Casey for three years, ever since they reviewed Slow Flowers for their Flower Duet monthly newsletter.
That prompted me to ask the sisters if I could schedule a book-release event at their studio as part of my Southern California tour in spring 2013. They generously agreed and we had a wonderful evening demonstration, reception and book signing for clients, students and friends.
It has been a load of fun to watch these two floral entrepreneurs take on a wide array of creative projects, including teaching at some of Southern California’s top cultural institutions, designing weddings from San Diego to Santa Barbara and everywhere between, and sharing their expertise and passion with others.
When it came time to suggest a Slow Flowers floral designer to be showcased at the Carlsbad Field to Vase Dinner, I called event planner Kathleen Williford and asked: Can we ask two? She heartily agreed that Flower Duet would be a fantastic choice and lucky for the dinner guests, they said yes.
Here’s more about Kit and Casey:
Sisters Casey (Coleman) Schwartz and Kit (Coleman) Wertz began Flower Duet, their floral design business in 1999, based in Torrance, California.
The sisters started Flower Duet as a part-time weekend business after Casey had retired from designing flowers on luxury cruise ships around the world and Kit had immersed herself in floral design courses for a few years. They love creating custom wedding flowers for all types of brides and grooms, directing corporate team-building events for companies like Brighton and Ernst & Young and teaching flower arranging to budding floral designers and the dedicated floral enthusiast.
Flower Duet has been their full-time passion for the last decade and it shows as Flower Duet is a preferred floral vendor for Terranea Resort, Trump National Golf Club, Norris Center Pavilion, Los Verdes Golf Course, Verandas, La Venta Inn and The South Coast Botanic Garden.
In addition to teaching flower arranging classes at their design studio in the South Bay of Los Angeles, Kit and Casey also teach floral design workshops at The South Coast Botanic Garden in Palos Verdes and at The Huntington Library in San Marino.
Casey was inspired by flowers her whole life through her parents’ beautiful gardens that inspired a love of all types of flowers and plants.
After Casey graduated from Ohio University with a bachelor’s degree in Recreation Management, she achieved her goal to work on cruise ships and to chase summer around the globe.
Casey started her floral design career on a luxury cruise ship called The Sea Goddess I, part of the legendary Cunard lines. It was one of her early jobs on the ship to create and maintain fresh floral designs and buy flowers from vendors at port cities around the world, which required her to use multiple languages and currencies.
After acting as Chief Purser for six years on the ship Casey settled down in Los Angeles to be close to her siblings. She continued to take floral design courses including completing her advanced floral design certificate.
Casey’s design aesthetic knows no bounds. She is open to all flowers and all types of design. She has a wonderful, warm inviting personal style of her own which is evident in all the relationships she has with her clients and students.
Like her sister, Kit had a love of flowers from an early age, thanks to the lovely flowers her mother grew every summer in the backyard. During college, Kit worked as a perennial plant specialist at a local nursery and after graduating from James Madison University with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism, Kit had the opportunity to work in The Netherlands.
Kit became passionate about floral design after living among the flower-loving Dutch and after she created her own wedding flowers (with Casey’s help) for her wedding in 1997. Kit fell in love with the Los Angeles Floral District and wanted to share that passion for flowers with her friends.
After taking friends down to the LA Flower Mart and showing them how to create flower designs, the concept of Flower Duet took shape. By teaching people how to design flowers in their own homes in a flower party atmosphere, Flower Duet was able to grow through referrals for weddings and special event flowers.
Kit’s background is in photojournalism, so her creative eye is a plus when trying a new floral design idea. While working as an Internet marketing expert for companies like Office Depot and Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Kit honed her floral design skills taking classes and workshops around Southern California.
Please enjoy our conversation and hear how Kit and Casey have grown their business during the past decade, while also raising their families and staying close as siblings and friends.
Check out their social places here:
Flower Duet on Facebook
Flower Duet on Instagram
Flower Duet on Pinterest
Flower Duet on Twitter
Flower Duet on YouTube
Subscribe to their fantastic newsletter, a monthly roundup of what’s trending in floral design, weddings & events, and tips and tools for florists.
Thanks so much for joining me today. You can’t listen to an episode of the Slow Flowers Podcast without hearing my passion for American grown flowers, especially the local, seasonal and sustainable flowers grown by farms large and small around the U.S. — and of course, by our Canadian members for their communities.
Well, this past week I was especially fortunate to be part of an initiative through my role as a member of the Certified American Grown Council.
The Certified American Grown campaign last week was a featured sponsor of the 2016 First Lady’s Luncheon honoring Michelle Obama.
I was there to volunteer and participate as a Council member and let me tell you, as far as BUCKET LISTS go, this was one to top them all.
An annual tradition hosted by the Congressional Club since 1912 to honor the first lady of the United States, the luncheon is attended by over 1,500 people, including Congressional spouses, associates of members of Congress and cabinet members.
The Certified American Grown program worked with the Congressional Club’s First Lady’s Luncheon Committee to help ensure that 100 percent of the flowers used during this year’s event were American Grown.
With beautiful stems of flowers and greens from California, Oregon, Washington, Florida and Virginia, over 200 centerpieces and arrangements were created to fill the Washington Hilton Ballroom. I’m so impressed with the Congressional Club’s decision to seek and source blooms grown here in the United States for such a wonderful tradition of honoring our first lady.
The bouquets featured beautiful American Grown roses, peonies, stock, tulips, lilies, protea, Bells of Ireland, alstromeria, bupleurum, dianthus, freesia, lisianthus, ranunculus, viburnum, waxflower, ferns, leatherleaf and curly willow.
The centerpieces were designed by Andrea Gagnon of LynnVale Studios, a Certified American Grown farmer, floral designer and American Grown Council member. David Beahm Experiences of New York carried out Andrea’s vision and provided logistical support for this large and prestigious floral installation. A special shout-out goes to Daevid Reed of David Beahm Experiences, for his vision, energy, and excellent execution as the floral producer.
Each year, the luncheon supports a nonprofit of the First Lady’s choice. Funds raised from this year’s event will go to the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregiving, an advocacy, research, education and service unit that provides support for both professional and family caregivers. Centerpieces were purchased by attendees to help raise those funds.
At the VIP reception prior to the luncheon, I enjoyed several conversations with Congressional Club members, spouses of members of Congress on both sides of the aisle, who raved about the flowers.
It was a wonderful opportunity to speak personally with the Congressional Club’s leadership about American grown flowers and to let them know about flower farms in their home states. The members were thrilled to learn more and I left feeling certain that there will be a new tradition for American grown flowers at next year’s First Lady’s Luncheon, regardless of the party in power.
The Slow Flowers Podcast has been downloaded more than 97,000 times by listeners like you. THANK YOU to each one of you for downloading, listening, commenting and sharing. It means so much.
Next week, you’re invited to join me in putting more American grown flowers on the table, one vase at a time. And If you like what you hear, please consider logging onto Itunes and posting a listener review.
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The Slow Flowers Podcast is engineered and edited by Andrew and Hannah Brenlan. Learn more about their work at shellandtree.com.