flower shop owner
Catherine Somers has returned to the flower world, taking over the North Santa Cruz Avenue space that was most recently occupied by Grocer + Goddess. (Laura Ness / Los Gatan)

Flowers, like music, are a universal language. No matter what the occasion, there’s a flower for it. Sometimes, it might be something you’ve never heard of—say, a reticulated ranunculus. Or, perhaps a rose peony in bright watermelon pink (arguably the most flirty of the petticoat-wearing plants).

Catherine Somers, owner of Los Gatos-based Centerpiece Flowers, located near Trent Pottery and Oy! Bakery (which used to be the first home of Manresa Bread in Los Gatos), makes it her business to source unusual flowers. She’s not sharing any secrets, but her previous career in the floral industry (she worked at Boston-based Winston Flowers for years, before her husband’s job transferred the family to Seattle), has set her up with some excellent connections.

Somers, a familiar face to residents, having served as the executive director of the Los Gatos Chamber for eight years, is still a fierce champion for small businesses. Keeping the Chamber properly funded is critical to promoting the town’s economy. “These small businesses are the lifeblood of the town,” she says. “They’re what brings people here.”

pink peonies
MARVELOUS – Recently-arrived pink peony roses adorn Somers’ shoproom. (Laura Ness / Los Gatan)

Somers has an eye for beauty and balance, and always makes flowers the star of the show. With apologies to Trader Joe’s, her selection goes well beyond theirs. Plus, you can’t get prom staples at TJ’s.

“We’re right in the middle of prom and graduation season,” Somers says, while tying a soft green ribbon around a few stems of peony roses, with which I’ve been smitten. “Plus, weddings, and anniversaries—it’s that time of year. We’re getting orders for corsages, boutonnières and posies for brides. I love how wrist corsages are so popular again, and posies are so sweet.”

Did you know that the tradition of a corsage for prom comes from an early 20th century (yikes, that seems so long ago now) custom of men bringing a bouquet to their date’s parents, from which a single bloom would be pinned on their date’s dress? Corsages are also popular hair adornments and can be pinned to the waist of a dress. It all depends on the dress, but wrist corsages are the most flexible. 

‘I tell people to channel the person they are buying flowers for’

—Catherine Somers

Boutonnières have gone beyond carnations and roses to gardenias and cosmos, and 2024 wedding trends are towards brighter and more vibrant, with oranges, fuchsias and unusual greenery as accents. Dahlias, roses, peonies and carnations are the floral core, but hydrangea, gerberas, anthuriums, and chrysanthemums are also in. Long stems like snapdragons and larkspur—plus long-lasting lisianthus and delphiniums—add drama.

There’s a growing movement towards more natural looking arrangements: bouquets that look like they came straight out of a backyard garden in the countryside.

“Flower crowns are part of that natural, back-to-the-earth movement,” says Somers. “I’m getting requests for those, too.”

quote on a card with flowers
VOLTAIRE – At Somers’ shop and you might just find inspiration along with a bouquet. (Laura Ness / Los Gatan)

If you’re looking for a sensational one-of-a-kind centerpiece arrangement, give her a day’s notice, and she can put something together. “Many people bring in their own vase, which is great, but I also have lots of options to choose from,” she says, pointing to the shelves, stocked with containers of various shapes.

She loves the simplicity of Ball jars, something that fits the ethos of other shoppers who have donated several to her collection.

“I love upcycling,” she says, as she pulls a map of California out of her utility container, stuffed with scissors and floral tape, ribbons, wire, pens and twine. “Why not use them for wrapping flowers?” The familiar outlines of Lake Tahoe become the backdrop for my pink peony roses.

HARD AT WORK – Somers flips through cards as if doing a tarot reading. (Laura Ness / Los Gatan)

Somers then pushes a small wooden box filled with small cards on a heavy stock in my direction, inviting me to browse. “My husband gave me these ages ago, when I was thinking about opening my own floral shop,” she says. “Although I didn’t get to fulfill that dream back then, I thought these were fun and hung onto them. I tell people to channel the person they are buying flowers for, and then pick something out of the box.” Almost every time, she says, there’s a powerful connection with the subject matter.

It’s a bit like tarot card reading, or fortune cookie hunting. Some are humorous, some quizzical. Most are downright poignant. “People have really strong emotional reactions when they read the sentiments,” Somers notes. “That’s just such a beautiful thing.”

I select one at random: “There are many things in life that will catch your eye: but only a few will catch your heart. Pursue those.”

Centerpiece Flowers is at 242 N. Santa Cruz Ave, Los Gatos, CA, 95030. Hours are Monday through Friday, 9am until 5:30pm. Follow her @centerpieceflowerslg handle on Instagram to stay florally inspired.

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