Florist Friday: A Chat With Kathleen Barber of Erika’s Fresh Flowers

At Pacific Northwest-based Erika’s Fresh Flowers, floral design and gardening run in the family. For the past decade, Kathleen Barber has been using flowers from her cutting garden for floral arrangements for clients throughout the North Oregon Coast, many whom travel there from other states for weddings. Baker started working in the garden as early as she can remember, and the floral business is a collaborative family effort. “Once you get the flower bug, there’s not much you can do about it,” she tells us.

Erika’s Fresh Flowers is named after Barber’s daughter, Erika, who took over her own grandmother’s flower stand when she was 14 years old. Garden Collage recently caught up with Barber to talk about growing the flowers she uses for her bouquets, the beauty of the Pacific Northwest, and what it’s like to garden when it rains almost 300 days of the year. 

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GC: How did you get into flowers? Did you grow up gardening?

KB: My mom and dad were huge flower gardeners. My mom sold cut flowers on a roadside stand starting in the 50’s and my aunt on the other end of the county had a roadside stand where she sold flowers from her garden. To this day, she still gardens, and in fact I just got back from doing a presentation at her garden club on flower arranging. Her, my mom, my daughter, and I all love flowers. So that’s pretty much where it came from. 

“My mom sold cut flowers on a roadside stand starting in the 50’s, and my aunt on the other end of the country had a roadside stand where she sold flowers from her garden. To this day, she still gardens…”

GC: Did you have a gateway flower? For example, a flower you completely fell in love with that led to a larger love of flowers, or a flower that you tend to zoom in on whenever it’s in season?

KB: I tend to zoom in on certain flowers when they’re in season. I really love poppies, and as soon as they pop open, I’m ecstatic and taking pictures like crazy of all the different colors. I just love their crazy paper petals. And my newest favorite is lisianthus. It comes in so many varieties and colors and it lasts for days! Those are probably my favorite right now– and ranunculus, of course.

GC: How do you keep your creative drive going?

KB: I’ve learned to just create something every day. If I’m doing paperwork, I take a break and go do something creative, even if it’s just going out and gluing sedums onto something, making an arrangement, taking photos of my garden or my flowers, or talking with other creative people.

GC: What does a typical, say, Tuesday look like for you?

KB: Anything goes. I have my planned standing orders, and if it’s sunny out, I try to be outside doing something. It can be doing paperwork, social media, up keeping, or designing, because I’m a one woman’s show. I do it all, so I’m very good at figuring out what needs to be done, organizing, and managing it. Going through the massive amount of photographs that I’ve taken and trying to put them on my website and Facebook… there are just so many things to do everyday! 

GC: What are some of your favorite local spots?

KB: I’m right by the beach, and I call it my office. Sometimes I just get some paperwork together and I drive to the beach and I can park and look out at the ocean, and do stuff on my computer and do paperwork at the same time or gather inspiration by just taking a drive around— there’s so much to look at. I also love taking a walk on a trail or on the beach to pick up stuff to use in a full design. 

“Everyone has such a unique garden style and it’s reflected in what they grow and how they maintain it.”

GC: Do you have a favorite garden?

KB: I don’t necessarily have a favorite garden. What I find impressive and like to do is get invited to other people’s gardens– people who are very passionate about taking care of a living entity. Everyone has such a unique garden style and it’s reflected in what they grow and how they maintain it. I know everyone says, “please look over the mess,” because they want it to be perfect. But I love being able to talk with the person who grows it about what they grow. I can be there for hours [doing that]. I find this to be more enjoyable than going to a big garden that’s manicured, where people are hired to work and plant in it.

GC: How do you dress for summer weather? How does your summer style differ from your winter style?

KB: In summer I wear flip flips and a floppy hat. On rainy days– it rains pretty much 300 days out of the year– I wear waterproof shoes with good soles, waterproof pants which are easy to move around in, and a waterproof light jacket. That’s pretty much my outfit.

GC: How would you describe your style? How has it evolved over time?

KB: My style is local, inspired by wild, naturalistic textures, and the locally-sourced lush style. As time progresses I’ve become more comfortable in what I’m designing and I’m attracting clientele who like a more lush, naturalistic look in their flowers, rather than a more traditional type of design.

GC: What are your other floral design influences?

KB: Using textures, different color palettes. I prefer orange colors or reddish, brownish colors, but also interesting plant materials– things that are very natural. I try not to be too influenced by what other people are doing. 

GC: If you could travel to any one destination, floral-wise, where would you go?

KB: I know of other big gardens, but floral-wise, I could probably stay in the Pacific Northwest and just go around to all the local flower growers. I could spend months doing that, talking about locally-sourced flowers and what they’re growing. That impresses me more than going anywhere else; I find there’s so much more to be learned just by [staying local]. 

GC: How does social media affect your business? How do you interact with it?

KB: It gives me a connection to other designers, growers, and creatives that I couldn’t get anywhere else. We can interact with each other in real time. We can do spontaneous things like Facebook videos, Periscope, and Snapchat. I don’t fight social media; I use it to my advantage.

GC: What’s your coffee order?

KB: My coffee order everyday is a 12-ounce, 2-shot dry cappuccino from Three Cups Coffee House— that’s my third office.

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