Around Town with a Floral Designer
Plenty of Petals' Kasia Mukulska shows us the unexpected places to get vessels, flowers and foliage for your next centerpiece
Plenty of Petals founder Kasia Mikulska didn’t arrive at her floral design profession in typical fashion. Before she started her boutique floral studio seven years ago, she was figuring out what to do with an interior design degree, ultimately deciding that designing home spaces wasn’t the right creative avenue for her. Then she tried graphic design before accidentally falling into floral design after a friend asked her to do the flowers for her 30th birthday party. “I sourced the flowers from VONS, made arrangements in glass vases and hid the stems in the water with large tropical leaves,” Kasia confesses. “I understood the mechanics of a pretty arrangement and went from there.” And she discovered she loved fashioning centerpieces (and more!) using flowers and plants.
To hone her technique, Kasia took an unpaid internship at a family friend’s floral shop in Orange County. At the time, she was waitressing, interning and starting her wedding floral business (something the shop she worked in didn’t offer) on the side. Friends became her first clients, and her business blossomed from there. Now, she’s booked a year and a half in advance for weddings and, earlier this year, she opened her own studio in North Park (more on that at www.sandiegohomegarden.com), which she rents out to others for photo shoots, workshops and events. We joined Kasia on a recent sunny day while she visited and shopped her favorite San Diego sources for plants, flowers, pottery, vessels, inspiration and more.
Kasia comes to this expansive nursery in Vista for their selection of plants, which she then works into arrangements with flowers. “Interesting plants with foliage colors other than green provide better fill than what you find at most flower markets,” she says. She really likes coral bells, which come in shades of purple, rose, lime green, gold and variations in between, and she’s a fan of bloodleaf’s more muted colors that show through the plant’s textured leaves. Kasia also buys some common cut flowers—like alstroemeria that grow in a palette as wide as the color spectrum—in plant form here. “You get more variations that way,” she says adding, “every flower doesn’t stand up perfectly straight.”
1111 Poinsettia Ave., Vista, 760-727-2727, briggstree.com
Situated on more than an acre of land just south of Batiquitos Lagoon, this 65-year-old independent retail nursery (above) is Kasia’s go-to spot for pottery. After checking out the staghorn ferns, strolling through the hanging baskets, stopping at the hydrangea plant selection (which Kasia loves to buy and dry), walking past dinner plate-sized dahlias and smelling the sweet aromas of chocolate cosmos (you have to rub them first), Kasia leads us to a section of small-to-medium-size containers. “They have the best selection of pots,” she says. There’s Italian terra-cotta, Mexican Talavera and lots of simple shapes in neutral colors that Kasia browses. “I tend to buy unglazed pots—a healthier option for plants because the root system can breathe better—in earthy shades and classic shapes.”
400 La Costa Ave., Encinitas, 760-753-3153, andersonslacostanursery.com
You have to visit this wholesale-only plant warehouse with someone who has a resale license, like Kasia. Tucked in the middle of a quiet neighborhood, this unassuming nursery stocks an impressive selection of houseplants, “though you never know what else you’re going to find here,” Kasia says, sifting through a box filled with white oyster shells for $1 each. “I always tell people to leave room in the budget for the unexpected when shopping nurseries and plant shops.” Next, Kasia checks out the air plants. “I love these. You can use them as decor on a bookshelf, but I add floral tape and a stick to incorporate them into arrangements and bouquets.” Just beyond the air plants, Kasia spots the houseplant section and two of her current faves—pothos and Monstera.
950 Brittany Road, Encinitas, 760-436-2716, leucadianursery.com
Some Sunday mornings, Kasia heads to this outdoor flea market in the Sports Arena Square in search of items to add to her collections. “The earlier you get there, the better,” she says of the weekly bargain event that takes place every Friday, Saturday and Sunday until 3 p.m. She’s always on the hunt for pretty baskets, floral frogs and simple, neutral cups and bowls she can use as vessels for arrangements. “I don’t need more, but I can’t help myself,” she adds, laughing. Her advice for getting some of the best finds? Go often and without expectations.
3500 Sports Arena Blvd., San Diego, 619-226-0650, kobeyswap.com
For inspiration, Kasia walks the neighborhood she’s called home for the last two years. “I love the Craftsman-style homes,” she says. Having spent her adolescence in Orange County in a tract home that looked like every other one on the street, Kasia appreciates the differences in architecture and landscapes here. And though she never takes from others, she clips from her own garden to add to the arrangements and bouquets she creates.