There are a lot of things in California that native Californians can be very proud of, lets see………Sequoia Trees, Americas tallest mountain, more Turkeys are raised in California than in any other state, they have the smallest county in the USA, they also have the largest county in the USA. They have a law the declares that if you damage a Red Monarch butterfly you will publically stoned to death in Modesto village square. I may have got my wires a bit crossed there about the getting stoned in California, I digress. Just before the turn of the nineteenth century a gold mine in Jackson California served as a mecca for gold panners and the list goes on. It must be said that they do have tons of very cool stuff going on over there, for instance the Hollywood Bowl is still the coolest place to watch a band as the sun sets taking in the smells of whatever is wafting your way from the rows in front of you and probably the rows behind you. Coachella, a concert goers paradise with Humphrey’s by the Bay in San Diego and the Belly up tavern in Solana Beach tied neck and neck for the award for the most intimate music venue that still books big name bands.
However, having spent many years on the west coast possibly the most fantastic thing they have going for them is not just the amazing produce they grow, Strawberries, Blueberries and Raspberries in Oxnard, Tomatoes, Lettuce, you name it they grow it. Around the Lompoc area its like the garden of Eden, admittedly I wasn’t around then but if I was I am pretty sure it would have looked the valleys surrounding the lompoc region. One thing is certain, you will be hard pressed to find better commercially grown flowers anywhere in the United States than the amazing floral bounty that comes out of California all year round.
I have spent hours and hours gawking, drooling, staring motionless as I take in the scenic vistas of the Stock fields in full bloom, a smell that has to be one of the most beautiful fragrances found anywhere on earth, the smell of 200 acres of Stock in full bloom ready to harvest. Lisianthus fields in Carpinteria, like a lavender carpet strewn across the land with the backdrop of the Santa Barbara hills completing the picture. Claude Monet would have had a field day.
Part of my time in California was spent working for Mr Bob Wilkins, owner along with his brother John, of the Delaware Valley Group of companies and one of the greatest, if not the greatest flower mind the industry will ever be lucky enough to possess. Delaware Valley is in my mind without a doubt the leading fresh flower wholesaler and distributor in the United States, an unbelievable company ran by extremely professional and very experienced flower people that are a credit to the industry. I have been fortunate enough to have been in the flower industry since I was a young tearaway in the street markets of England and still I know that Bob Wilkins has forgotten more about the flower business than my severely backed up neurological processors will ever be able to remember. He is a legend and to say I am honored to have worked alongside him and his team for many years is somewhat of an understatement. It was Mr Wilkins who introduced me to the wonders of California, Snapdragons, the like I have never seen before, four feet tall and stems like tree trunks, dark blue Delphiniums shining like Sapphires as far as the eye can see, acres of Gladioli standing to attention grown on cliffs overlooking the swirling, crashing waves of the Pacific ocean. Every Lily variety you can name is grown in California especially towards the north of the state, I remember having to pinch myself whilst looking at Oriental lilies with gigantic blooms that would easily cover the surface of a dinner plate, thinking that these belong in some sort of fantasy-esque Alice in Wonderland setting where everything is twice the size as it is in reality. Hanging amaranthus with dramatic cascading burgundy spikes plummeting to the ground, and of course acres and acres of sun flowers, every variety known to man each one staring at the sun as if hypnotized by its powerful rays. There are simply too many wonderful things grown in California to mention them all.
I shall never forget my time in California, I shall cherish my time there and consider the memories among the most precious and special times I have had on this flower journey that I have now been on for thirty years, and I will never lose those images of the stock fields and that unique smell, or the marine layer slouching idly, eventually rising slowly to reveal the floral treasures that lay beneath. The cold breeze that wrapped itself around the farms of Santa Barbara during the night time only to be rudely pushed aside by beautiful baking sun drenching the flower fields as their inhabitants await their fate in the flower markets the world over. Thank you California and Thank you Mr Wilkins !