A Blossoming Adventure: Can the love of flowers really be in your DNA?

A Blossoming Adventure: Can the love of flowers really be in your DNA?

Last week I did something most on-lookers would deem 'crazy'. I quit my full-time job as a biologist with the State of Louisiana, leaving behind good benefits and a pension, to work for myself preserving flowers. I have always been captivated by nature, but following the pandemic this feeling became impossible to ignore. I wanted to be completely enveloped by delicate petals, vivid colors and the sweet smell of roses. Then I discovered, it's in my roots. The knowledge of my family's legacy in the flower industry was the inspiration I needed to make this leap of faith.
 
I grew up in New Orleans and went to Cabrini High School on Moss Street, around the corner from my family's florist. I found comfort in knowing my aunts, uncle and extended family were nearby creating beautiful flower arrangements and would often see the delivery van making its way around MidCity.
 
Let me take you inside "the shop", as we call it, for a moment. As I open the door, it takes my nervous system a moment to adjust from the lazy, moss covered, oak tree-lined streets outside, to the to fast-paced flower shop inside. Immediately, I am flooded with the sweet aroma of Stargazer lilies and roses. There is a sea of flowers before me, all lined up at the door waiting for delivery. Throughout the room there are small pathways, like rabbit trails in a meadow, lined with buckets of flowers, that my family scurries through to get from the cooler, to the design table and to the delivery table.
My Uncle Larry stands in the back in his purple LSU sweatshirt working on a large bleeding-heart funeral piece. My Nanny Lisa sits at the table with her perfect customer service voice answering the phone, "Adrian's!" while creating a stunning arrangement for a wedding. She gives me a little wink to let me know she saw me walk in but will have to wait to say hello. Aunt Linda stands near the door quietly focused, two phones up to her ears, performing quality control of the orders before they are sent out the door.
 
They all barely look up from their work as I hear, "Hey, Ash!" "Hey, sweetie" "Ash, grab me those scissors, please!" "Larry, what is the fastest way to the Court of Two Sisters at this time of day?" "Lisa, can you get me another mum from the cooler?" "Linda, someone is on the phone and wants to know if they can get an arrangement delivered to the West Bank today by 5pm for under $35". Whewwww, I can feel that pull, I want to jump in and help.
 
So, is it in our DNA?
 
A few years ago I downloaded Ancestry.com and followed my grandfather, Leon A. Vignes
Jr.'s lineage back to Estampes, France. My great-great-great grandfather's paperwork states 'Occupation: "Florist",' when he immigrated from France to New Orleans at the age of 16. A few years later on a New Orleans census his occupation was listed as "flower farmer" and his address was 632 North White Street, New Orleans. This was the location of his home and business, Vignes' Florist. He and his family lived upstairs and the florist shop was below.
When my great-great-great grandfather passed away, Vignes' Florist was continued by my great-great grandfather, his wife, and children. Across town, Adrian's Florist was opened in the 1950's by my mother's mother, Nina Vignes and Leon Vignes Jr. Many years later Vignes' Florist and Adrian's Florist merged as one, as it is today, located on Carrolton Avenue. My cousin Tiffany, my Aunt Lisa's daughter, also opened her own business, The Flower Girl, a modern-styled boutique floral design studio in New Orleans and continues to grow her business. That is a lot of love for flowers - so, is it in our DNA? Technically speaking, specific preferences and interests can't be directly encoded in DNA, but there *are* genetic factors that can influence our inclination towards certain traits, including an appreciation for flowers!
 
As I grew up, I watched the transient beauty of flowers fade away, time and time again. I yearned to capture their magic and create lasting memories for people to cherish. This led me on an exploratory journey that began over a year ago. I delved into the intricate techniques and time-honored methods of herbarium preparation and preserving flowers, meticulously perfecting my craft. Through trial and error, I discovered the best techniques of drying, pressing, and treating flowers to retain their vibrancy and shape.
With each preserved bloom, I have learned to breathe life into timeless arrangements and encapsulate the emotions associated with life's most significant milestones.
 
Whether it is a bridal bouquet, a cherished anniversary gift, or a memorial tribute, I work closely with clients to ensure their precious memories are preserved in stunning displays. Each petal, carefully chosen and treated, becomes a symbol of love, celebration, or remembrance.
 
Preserved flowers tell stories that transcend time, connect generations and weave tales of joy, love, and resilience. I am so excited to see where this petal-covered path leads me and I can't help wondering what my ancestors would think of my journey.
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