coyote + oak
Vol Iv feature
in my wilder dreams
– excerpt feature from Coyote & Oak, Volume IV
written by Rebecca Ross
photographed by Ashley Ludaescher
I’VE JUST WALKED UNDER THE BLACK AND WHITE STRIPED AWNING OF WILDER FLORAL CO., AND STEPPED THROUGH THE BLACK LACQUERED FRONT DOOR,
the numbers 1349 in gold on either side shining in the bright San Luis Obispo sun. Outside it’s a typical central coast day, quiet and relaxed. But inside, it’s a different story. A friendly courier passes me on his way out with a delivery, and directs me to a woman in a stylish mustard-colored cardigan and a linen apron, who is feverishly arranging flowers at a work table behind the counter.
I watch as Asha Renew, founder of Wilder Floral Co., creates a stunning arrangement from scratch. We introduce ourselves to one another, but all I can think about is how quickly she has transformed a pile of stems and petals and leaves into a work of art, as we talk. Her expert hands snip and jab, snip and jab with ease and speed. When it’s finished, it looks just like the pieces I’d seen on her website, each one resembling a classic oil painting.
A few days later, we speak on the phone, and Asha tells me the story of a serendipitous bundle of wildflowers, and how it started her on her current path. One Spring, there was a knock at the door. Eager to answer it, as kids usually are, she opened the door, but there was no one there; but as she looked down, she saw what she calls a “small, colorful bunch of wispy, dainty wildflowers” on the doorstep, with a handmade tag that read “Happy May Day” in a child’s handwriting.
“I’m pretty sure it was one of the neighbor boys,” she guesses, though the mystery of the giver’s true identity has made the experience that much more memorable over time. “I always remembered the feeling of finding those flowers and wanted to give that feeling back.”
Asha may have known from a young age that she wanted to be a part of making people feel loved and bringing them joy, but life would first take her down the road to a career in graphic design. Always a creative person, she was drawn to the artistic side of graphic design, and even spent three years working for Cal Poly San Luis Obispo on a re-branding project. Floral design wasn’t a part of her curriculum or her job, but when something is meant to be, it finds a way.
That little seedling that was planted one long ago May Day soon pushed its way to the surface of her mind. Asha began to design flowers for friends, and once she picked it up, she found she couldn’t put it down. She would sometimes dream about owning a floral cart, but it wasn’t until a trip to Italy with her then-boyfriend/now-husband that her daydreams began to take shape.
“I saw a shop there that really inspired me,” she says. “So I sat down with my journal, and sketched out my dream shop.” She used a combination of the Italian flower shop and a flower shop she was familiar with in San Luis Obispo as her template, giving it a black and white striped awning, gold details, and hand-lettered logo.
Sound familiar? Asha says she had always been encouraged to envision her future, but what she drew in her sketchbook that day was more than a vision or a dream— it was a time machine. In a fortuitous twist, that San Luis Obispo flower shop she used as her template is now the exact location of Wilder Floral Co. She had no way of knowing at the time, but the owner of that shop would eventually pass her torch to Asha, allowing her to start her own business. Once the keys were officially in her hand, she and her weekend warriors transformed the exterior to match her drawing.
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“To see it come to fruition was out of this world,” she says. “It was unreal. I had to keep pinching myself, because it was literally a dream come true.”
I can tell that Asha is still in awe of the way the universe aligned in her favor. Anyone who’s ever had a dream also has the hope that one day it will become a reality, but Asha did more than just hope. She pursued, she planned, she prepared. She was ready when the moment came, and seized it, effectively making the leap from graphic designer to floral designer.
From the start, Asha knew that she only wanted to use thoughtfully sourced local products, and celebrate the beauty of nature. She supports local growers, and doesn’t endorse the import, mass-produced, single-stem red rose industry. Her arrangements are organic and creative, and evoke fields of wildflowers or your grandmother’s garden.
“I have eight designs that I know like the back of my hand,”she says. “I think about how the eye will move around the arrangement,making sure it’s full, beautiful and natural, with no holes. I also like to hide little surprises like a pod or a bud, and I try to use every little scrap, because I think that’s part of the beauty.”
Asha tells me that one of her favorite things is watching the transformation of her shop throughout the day. “It’s in complete disarray in the morning, and the coolers are packed full of color, and then it’s all gone! We have, probably, two turnovers a day, and then it’s pristine again at night.”
Another highlight for Asha is when she gets to design for a wedding, because it’s completely different from her daily arranging.
“I think about what the bride will see, what others at the wedding will see, even the way it smells, because later on she’ll smell that [scent] and be reminded of that day and how she felt.”
Does she have a favorite wedding? “The last three bouquets I did, I thought, ‘This is my favorite! No, this is! Every wedding is so different, keeping me on my toes, stretching and growing. So, I guess the next one I do will be my favorite!”
Asha probably feels like she lives at her shop, as most small business owners sometimes do, but she finds time to spend with her fiancé and her two cats, even squeezing in a little yoga and graphic design on the side, now and then. She loves exploring the area, going on hikes and taking day trips, but her passion is always at the front of her thoughts.
“My mind is always on flowers,” she laughs. “I nerd out on them.” And thank goodness for that.