Coffee and a Witty Marquee
Illustration by Cathy Raingarden
Tooling up Solano Avenue, it’s hard to miss the big and welcoming vintage sign for Flowerland. Constructed in 1947 by the Pleich family, the building has always been a nursery, and it has always been Flowerland.
“I purchased the business from Bob Willson in October of 2008, just when the economy tanked,” says Carly Dennett, third owner of Flowerland. Having worked for a time as a gardener before taking over the nursery, Dennett envisioned and then created a beautiful place with a curated, diverse, and seasonal selection of plants and goods.
“From the start, I was passionate about the space, the building, and its location,” she says. “Since Flowerland is a relatively small space, we have to be creative in helping plants stand out. We love plants that have interesting year-round texture and structure, and those that do well in this climate without a lot of water, once established.”
The distinctive marquee is original to the building. “Bob Willson used it for his own eclectic expressions that always contained a touch of humor,” Dennett says. “Sometimes it was also used in a traditional way to let people know about a sale. When I became the owner, my husband, Matthew, said it was important that we keep up the tradition. We have lots of fun trying to come up with phrases that are timely, humorous, and not edgy to the point where we might offend. This has become more difficult in today’s political climate.”
Over time, the business has added pop-up food events, book signings, and music, on top of the more usual gardening demos. “We have an awesome team ready to offer specialized expert advice,” says Dennett.
A recent and especially distinctive addition is Flowerland’s coffee garden with its mid-20th century trailer, which matches well to the vintage building. “It evolved organically, as did everything else. I approached Local 123—now Highwire Coffee—to see if they were interested in being part of the setting. The owner, Frieda Hoffman, was immediately interested, and it just so happened she knew someone who wanted to sell their Airstream trailer.”
Dennett describes Flowerland as a green space amidst an urban setting. “It seemed natural for there to be a dual purpose as both nursery and place of respite.” Come check out the plants and settle in for a coffee in the garden.
Artist Cathy Raingarden is an urban sketcher, East Bay tile contractor, and landscape designer. A recent trip to Portugal has her inspired by the patterns of antique tile. As an urban sketcher, Cathy lives by the motto “Everything is interesting when you draw it.” She can be reached for tile installation and landscape design at Raingarden Tile & Design and greenraingarden(at)gmail.com. You can discover more of her artwork on Instagram @greenraingarden.