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Alemany Farmers’ Market and The French Tulip

Bring a Bit of Spring Indoors

Along with colored eggs, rabbits and yellow marshmallow Peeps, “colorful” makes me think of Easter and the return of spring. Aside from the Peeps, all of those things symbolize the ideas of fertility, abundance and renewal associated with the season. Furthermore, fresh floral arrangements brighten your home and give one the feeling of hope associated with new beginnings.

As easy as it is to pick up a bouquet of flowers along with your Easter ham and hot cross buns when you make a run to the market, there’s something uninspiring about those limp flowers wrapped in triangles of plastic. Have you seen those molding red roses surrounded by a clump of Baby’s Breath? They don’t really scream rebirth, do they? If you want to bring a bit of spring’s fresh scents indoors, let me give you a couple of ideas for places to find unique flowers either already beautifully arranged, or at a good price for you to create something all your own.

My first spot is ideal for the budget conscious. On any Saturday at the Alemany Farmers' Market, located on the south side of Bernal Heights where Putnam Street and Alemany Boulevard meet, there are a handful of regular flower vendors sprinkled amongst the produce stands.

One of the bigger stalls set up under a large white tent belongs to Madrano’s Farm. Their employees pack up and truck the selection of purple irises ($3.00 a bunch), pink, red and orange gerbera daisies ($1.00 each), and a rainbow of roses ($5.00-$12.00 a bunch) up from Monterrey County every weekend. Their choices will change slightly with the seasons, such as the dried lavender ($3.00 a bunch), which was available during my visit in March.

Vendors change with the weather, too. My favorite flower stall can be found on a semi-regular basis under the mural of a smiling woman in a red sweater. Vendor Honaria Nakagawa doesn’t have tons of flowers, but what she brings are special. On my last trip there, she had a striking display of royal purple alium (one a bunch for $2.00, three for $5.00). Keep an eye out later in the summer when she has the tuber roses. The smell of those is sweet and spectacular.

Next to her stall is where you’ll find the orchids. I realize that these take a little more care than cut flowers, but they make a great gift nonetheless. These orchids are grown right in San Francisco and normally cost $25.00 and up. They come in about any color, size and shape that you could imagine.

In addition to the constantly changing collection of flowers, it’s a great chance to chat with the growers and ask questions about their stock. Use your trip here as an opportunity to stretch your creative abilities by picking flowers for your own signature arrangement. Though the SFGov.org website lists the market as closing at 3pm., it’s best to get there earlier because many of the vendors start packing up around 1pm.

When you have a little more cash padding your wallet, take a trip over to Noe Valley. Tucked into a tiny space on 24th Street near Sanchez is the French Tulip. The shop’s been operating since 1990, providing artistically arranged French-style bouquets of seasonal flowers. As the tulip is a symbol of love, the shop is appropriately named, because the owners, Daniel & Laetitia Phelps, first met while working there back in 1995.

Snow white lilacs grown by a woman right in the neighborhood go for $2.95-$4.95. The mixed bouquets found in front of the shop run from $8.95-$12.95. Peppery smelling white, purple or yellow freesia will cost you $8.95 a bunch. And of course, there are tulips, $12.95 for 10. Their bundle of dried lavender will cost you more than three times than what we found at the Farmer’s Market ($10.95), but the rest of the inventory is worth it as the stock of flowers is of premium quality.

The French Tulip can put together arrangements for weddings, birthdays, or whatever event you want to liven up with flowers. They also have a website where you can order bouquets made up of lilies, tulips and lavender, with names like “Casablanca,” “Rouge,” and “L'Elegant,” which will set you back $60.00-$85.00. They do make deliveries, so check their website for details.

If you need a thoughtful little something to go along with your flowers, they also have available in their French country style store a line of bath and body products from Dani and Mama Mia. As an added bonus, French Tulip selects items that are not tested on animals and contain all natural ingredients.