Related Articles: Home & Garden, All


A Flower Design Shop Branches Out

Over the years Hayes Valley’s seedy scene of drugs and crime has eroded. In the last decade or so it has sprouted into a bustling enclave of trendy boutiques, chic salons, sunny sidewalk cafés and hip restaurants that line not only its main thoroughfare, Hayes Street, but also its side alleys. The latest addition to take root is Birch.

Birch is a gleaming black-on-black space that’s part floral design shop, part newsstand and part gift shop. The interior is divided down the middle with high industrial bar tables that stretch down a weathered hardwood floor. Atop each table is a sample of the elegant arrays of floral arrangements that have been featured in notable publications such as Real Simple Weddings, Allure and Vogue.

All arrangements are custom-made to your preference and wrapped in elegant black paper with a large black bow -- Birch’s signature black-on-black style. You can call ahead of time or visit Birch to discuss a unique design, which can be made onsite. Hand-tied bouquets start at $25. Deliveries of your personal arrangements are available for a minimum order of $75 plus a delivery charge. They can be sent across the nation but call in advance to ensure timing.

A number of gift items lie under the canopy of floral designs on display. There is a variety of home décor items, stationery and fashion items that compliment any bouquet. For sale are modern ivory vases and resin jewelry by designer Tina Frey. Compact cases of solid perfume ($67) by In Fiore and flower infused artisan chocolates by Cocoa Absolute, also make fragrant and sweet treats. For humor, you can select a case of sleek black card sets from Set Editions with the words “Stop Talking” written in plain caps.

Along one side of the central divide of flowers and gifts is an exhibition of selected publications for sale. Against Birch’s black walls, the well-curated display of international magazines include i-D, Vogue Italia, Gastronomica, and Purple and Bloom. The covers themselves add an interesting dimension to the store since they are arranged as if composing an exhibition of photography portraits.

Torryne Choate is the power behind all the flowers and concept of Birch. The seeds of her floral career may stem from her grandparents who had both exercised prominent green thumbs in their work with Filoli, a country estate located 30 miles south of San Francisco. Filoli, currently a site of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, is where her grandfather helped design and build its greenhouses. Her grandmother was the lead tour guide.

Perhaps it comes as no surprise that Ms. Choate has grown her florist career from such a notable family background of avid gardeners and a mother who was a florist. From a florist apprenticeship in 1991 to her own freelance projects that included weddings and social events, Ms. Choate built a reputation and clientele that culminated in her first shop in Presidio Heights by 2007. By the summer of 2009, Birch had pollinated to Hayes Valley, where she has been a long-time resident. Both locations offer the same services and items but the fresh flower selection may vary. Only the Hayes location offers a collection of magazines.

Though she’s received numerous requests to expand Birch to other locations but like any gardener, Ms. Choate likes to have her hands on her projects. It seems she’s busy enough not only managing both locations but also styling her second shoot with Vogue. Later this month, she will be working with fashion heavyweights such as Vogue’s European Editor-at-Large Hamish Bowles and photographer Francois Halard for an editorial shoot on a family in San Francisco.

If Ms. Choate is not working on a fashion shoot or busy styling an event, you can catch her in the back of Birch, designing a new floral arrangement or curating the latest international magazine. Luckily for Hayes Valley, Birch has germinated and taken root. Step inside to see what has blossomed and have it wrapped in style -- black-on-black -- sexy black paper with a luxe black ribbon, of course.