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Chris, left, and Nick Neve stand in a greenhouse at Neve Bros. in Petaluma. (BETH SCHLANKER/ The Press Democrat)

Chris, left, and Nick Neve stand in a greenhouse at Neve Bros. in Petaluma. (BETH SCHLANKER/ The Press Democrat)

By KATIE WATTS / Petaluma Towns Correspondent

Chris Neve says he, his brother Nick and their dad Lou don’t sit around reading bridal magazines, but as growers who supply wedding flowers, the men behind Petaluma’s Neve Brothers still keep up with the trends.

“People ask us for what’s hot,” says Neve, 27, the company’s sales and warehouse manager. “We get designers pointing it out. You see it in their orders. A lot want texture.”

He pulls a clipboard from the office wall and shows an order he took from a floral designer earlier in the day. It calls for jasmine, roses, peonies, gardenias and hypericum, a yellow-flowered ornamental.

“You see what people have on their carts” at the San Francisco Flower Mart, “for example, Dusty Miller (a plant known for its silvery, furry leaves). Then you see more the next week, and you start to think.”

Neve Brothers is descended from Gianni Neve, who began his floral business in Petaluma in the late 1960s. So is Neve Roses II, a separate business operated by Corinna Neve since her husband Robert Neve died in 2010.

Figuring out current trends is the simple part, he says. What’s trickier is being able to adapt and grow the flowers as quickly as possible.

“Since they’re plants, they take time,” Neve said. Depending on the availability of new stock, it could take up to a year.

“The rose is king for us,” says Neve, explaining that roses offer the biggest color palette, so brides and floral designers can get the closest match to the wedding colors.

Also popular are garden roses, favored for their strong, classic rose fragrance and quartered, ruffled appearance, quite different from the elegant, spare tulip shape of Hybrid Tea roses.

But Neve Bros. also grows hydrangeas, gerbera, sunflowers, dahlias, viburnum, statice, oriental and Asiatic lilies, Dusty Miller and, in winter, tulips.

Trends move from east to west, says Lou Neve. “We have contacts on the East Coast” who notice what’s being requested and ask the florists they deal with.

At the end of the day, he adds, “you have to ask yourself, ‘Is this something people will like?’”

Often they choose correctly, but sometimes they fall in love with roses the public doesn’t.

Neve points to a large bucket of spray roses known as Purple Sensation, a warm lavender in color, like a raspberry-blackberry ice cream. It has been a nursery favorite, he says, but “people won’t buy it.”

Neither he nor his son Chris know why, but they understand that while growing flowers is a pleasure, it’s also a business. “When you have a miss, you bury it as soon as possible,” he says.

Adds Chris, “We heard this year would be a blushy wedding season,” with pale pinks and creams. “For the past three or four years it has been strong colors, burgundy, dark pink. The trends start with the fashion designers, the new colors that people are going to wear.”

So far, he continues, his clients have asked for both strong shades and pink and white.

“White,” Lou adds, “is always good. It’s one of those colors people use as much as they can.

“Sometimes you have to figure it out on your own. Some things might not work for others, but will work for us, something that’s maybe not the great color but looks good in bouquets and is very productive.”

Corinna Neve, 54, says she has noticed a surge in brides who are doing their own weddings, especially those working on a budget.

They’re choosing white, pink and red roses, followed by yellow and orange.

“Red’s not as popular as it used to be, but it doesn’t fall out of fashion,” she says. “You always need a red rose at some point. It will always be the rose of love.”

Both firms have noticed the popularity of gerbera daisies and calla lilies, especially the mini, colored callas.

And, Corinna says, brides who are married in spring are opting for early flowers: ranunculus, anemones, freesias or sweet peas, for example. Peonies are also a choice.

Decorating magazines, especially Martha Stewart’s brands, have “a lot to do with brides branching out,” Corinna says, some even using succulents.

“Depending on the bride’s taste, anything can be popular. It’s up to their imagination.”

 

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