Informal ‘flower spas’ encourage spirit of joy, creativity

Laura Jean Schneider
ljschneider@ptleader.com
Posted 12/31/69

 

 

A bookkeeper swaps columns of numbers for rows of flowers, and finds a perfect fit.

A lonely sweet-pea harvester waits five years for the perfect partner to give her business …

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Informal ‘flower spas’ encourage spirit of joy, creativity

Posted

 

 

A bookkeeper swaps columns of numbers for rows of flowers, and finds a perfect fit.

A lonely sweet-pea harvester waits five years for the perfect partner to give her business idea a soul, and finally lucks out.

It’s a good thing these two women found each other, because it’s hard to imagine anyone else bringing The Flower Shed to life.

Libby Masaracchia and Denise Pranger are a few generations apart, but creative peers.

Pranger has had roots in gardening for 40 years. Traditional flower arrangements are her passion, and she’s created designs for Fort Worden and Velocity. Years ago, she delivered bouquets for Holly’s Fine Flowers.

“I found my tribe within the cut-flower community,” Pranger said during a recent interview at The Flower Shed, which is located at Finnriver Farm and Cidery. 

A former oil painter, she finds flower arranging a similar approach to color and feel.

While leasing an acre from Finnriver to raise and harvest sweet pea seed, which she sells all over the U.S., Pranger had a vision of a collective space where cut flower producers and creators could come together to craft, collaborate, and peddle their floral visions.

She gathered some angel investors who helped outfit an abandoned shed on Finnriver property, adding power and a large walk-in cooler. But the others who’d seemed interested in joining together to make The Flower Shed happen drifted away, and the project sat.

THE PERFECT PARTNER

Enter Masaracchia.

A former bookkeeper for Jefferson County, Masaracchia was looking for a change. Maybe even taking some time off for a while.

“I feel like Denise found me,” she said.

“I feel exactly the same,” said Pranger of Masaracchia.

A mutual friend had reached out to see if Masaracchia would be interested in helping to make bouquets for a Finnriver pop-up, and she agreed.

“It was a total job interview,” she said, smiling at the recollection.

Pranger, whom she’d met at a pop-up event, was actually looking for a business partner and co-collaborator.

Masaracchia was in.

THE FLOWER SPA

“It’s working like crazy,” she said of the partnership, as she twisted fresh-cut grapevines into rustic wreaths for the weekend’s wreath making “flower spa.”

The split bark of the vines was pungent as sweetgrass in the damp air. A space heater glowed orange at her feet.

“My take-home from our workshops are that people are craving just to have fun,”  she added.

Each two hour event is held at Finnriver, with a separate table for each participant. Plant-crafting hopefuls are encouraged to settle in before grabbing a cider or bite from the restaurant.

“It’s not an art class,” Pranger said, which takes some of the pressure off of folks who don’t consider themselves “artistic.”

“It’s a pretty forgiving medium,” she said.

Pranger describes her role as a sort of tutor. “Are you achieving what you want to achieve?” is a question she might pose to a crafter.

As she talked, hand pruner in easy reach, Pranger wove stalks of cured curly dock, a common Northwest plant, through a simple 3D chickenwire doughnut shape, crafting a wreath as the conversation grew.

While the duo cultivated cut flowers this year, they are avid foragers. Both women love working with rose hips; Masaracchia dreams of finding eucalyptus trimmings.

“We want to change the public view of a what a bouquet can look like,” she said. Her ethos is akin to a locavore, creating beauty with local, seasonal plants instead of relying on cultivars that require shipping, pesticide, and herbicide use, and less sustainable practices.

While The Flower Shed is still in the seedling phase – Masaracchia came aboard in June of this year — exciting things are in the works. Daffodil bulbs have been planted, awaiting the right ratio of winter temps and rain to burst radiant in the spring. They are expanding their plant area to include an acre of Pranger’s own garden space, among other spots.

The pair lease the building from Finnriver, and have hosted several successful workshops. They’re offering three more harvest and holiday-centered spas through the end of the year, and spaces are likely to fill up fast for the wreath and centerpiece making tutorials.

SPREADING CHEER

About working together, the two women seemed mutually content.

“Her sense of adventure,” Pranger said, is what she most admires about her colleague. “When we say we don’t know how to do something, she says, ‘Let’s try it.’”

“It’s never not fun,” she added, her face breaking into a smile.

“Denise has endless energy,” Masaracchia said.

“I know I’m new at this,” she said. “As far as defining my design personality, I’m still in the process.”

The women are excited about pairing with PT Peddler owner Juri Jennings, who started a bicycle delivery service during COVID for folks who couldn’t leave their homes.

She’s partnering with The Flower Shed to add flower delivery to her list of services, and delivery will be available to anyone within city limits.

“We’re just trying to bring a little bit of cheer,” Masaracchia said.

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