By Becca Jones
There are many skilled florists in San Diego, but the absence of Tam Ashworth is sure to leave many brides and event planners a little frantic. As the owner Isari Flower Studio jests, “How can they not have heard of me? I call myself the flower fairy godmother!”
For the past 30 years, Ashworth has graced the wedding industry far and wide with her craft. With weddings in San Diego and destination affairs in Thailand, India, France, and Mexico, she has plenty of memories to share about toting arrangements from place to place. On the heels of retiring and closing her studio, Ashworth worked us into her relatively clearer schedule to share some of the fondest memories—and, of course, flowers—from her career.
Originally from Thailand, Ashworth has a rich background in décor, fashion, and flowers that prepared her for her long-standing journey as a florist. Her eye for beauty was sharpened as a model in Thailand and when she studied interior design in Paris. After moving to the U.S. in 1987, Ashworth worked as a florist for the Four Seasons Los Angeles.
“Being a florist in the hotel was my playground,” Ashworth says. “I did daily flowers, restaurant flowers, all the big pieces.” Ashworth married and moved to San Diego in 1993, which led to her tenure as the in-house florist for the Four Seasons Aviara in 1997. Thirteen years later, in 2010, Ashworth moved to her beautiful Solana Beach studio and boutique on North Cedros Avenue.
Looking back on the blooms from when she first entered the floral industry in the 1980s, Ashworth recalls that carnations had a bad reputation, fern and baby breath were taboo, and large tropical arrangements were the biggest hit—despite their popularity, Ashworth didn’t love the style. Vases overflowing with curly willows and ginger? No thanks! “I hated those because I grew up in England and France!” Pastoral wildflowers from the English countryside, like bluebells in the spring, were more of her forte at the time.
Her time in France further influenced her taste. After boarding school in England, Ashworth moved to Paris where bouquets came from bucket shops. “They came in bundles of 10 stems,” she says. “You would buy them and give them to the counter girl, then she would rip it all apart and make a big bouquet out of everything you bought.” But this was in France, not America. “I used to love those bouquets, but in it was different times, different cultures.”
In those days the craft was a bit more challenging, Ashworth says. “The world has changed with FedEx and UPS.” In the early ’80s and ’90s in Los Angeles, Ashworth sourced from North County neighborhoods, which at the time were flower growing communities. Once moved to San Diego, Ashworth recollects hopping around different flower farms including the Carlsbad Floral Trade Center: a small warehouse wholesale market.
“I’ve seen it all,” she says, including a few styles that’ve made a comeback, much like clothing.
“I treat flowers like fashion,” Ashworth says. “There are things that weave in and out of time. Things come and go.” For example, tropical King Protea were extremely popular but then disappeared until they started popping up again in bohemian bouquets. “Again, flowers are fashionable. Whatever comes and goes.”
When she began her career, she often encountered brides who had no idea what they wanted. “Nowadays, people are a lot more knowledgeable,” Ashworth says. When Pinterest and images were less accessible, brides had to trust their florists much more (which she recommends brides still do today!). In the end, all they want is pretty flowers, whatever that may look like to them, Ashworth says.
As for her parting words to brides and grooms? Trust your vendor. Do your research and feel good with who you pick. After that, just trust your florist knows what they are doing!