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Flower Power

BUENA VISTA -- Most days, you will find Mary Dean and Ian Cordner under sun hats working on the 2.5 acres full of flower beds that is Buena Vista Flowers.

Mary Dean and Ian Cordner in the "barn" at Buena Vista Flowers on May 1. Dean moved onto the property at the corner of Willamette Ferry and Riverview roads in the late 1970s, and the flower business was born in the 1980s.

Photo by Pete Strong

Mary Dean and Ian Cordner in the "barn" at Buena Vista Flowers on May 1. Dean moved onto the property at the corner of Willamette Ferry and Riverview roads in the late 1970s, and the flower business was born in the 1980s.

May 07, 2013

BUENA VISTA -- Most days, you will find Mary Dean and Ian Cordner under sun hats working on the 2.5 acres full of flower beds that is Buena Vista Flowers.

It's an idyllic scene, but one built on years of hard work.

The landscape -- which now includes a quaint-looking "barn," more than 100 beds with about 150 different varieties of flowers and plants used in Dean's arrangements -- looked much different now than when Dean and her ex-husband first spied the property in the late-1970s.

The "barn" is the home of Buena Vista Flowers

The "barn" is the home of Buena Vista Flowers

Originally from California, the couple wanted a change of landscape (scenery? you used "landscape" in the previous graph). They first landed in Summit, northwest of Corvallis in the coast range where Dean's sister lived, and then began to look for their own piece of paradise.

"We wanted to live out in the country and grow plants and stuff," she said, "so we headed this direction and looked around in this area for awhile and happened upon this house."

It was just an old house surrounded by muddy roads, but Dean had a vision.

"Yeah, my parents were real impressed when they saw this place," Dean said, looking at an old black and white photo of the house. "They said, `What? What are you going to do with that place?' But in the long run, it came out."

Dean had already attended college by the time she discovered her love of growing plants. Having worked in her sister's garden and greenhouse for a time when first arriving in Oregon, she decided her calling was growing things.

At first she sold nursery plants, but later Dean settled on flowers. She taught herself how to arrange bouquets by reading books on the topic.

"I wish I had known I liked this so much," she said last week as she plucked purple and yellow Dutch iris blooms from a sun-soaked flower bed. "But it worked out."

Decades after discovering her ideal occupation, Dean and Cordner have established the perfect partnership in running Buena Vista Flowers.

Buena Vista Flowers grows a stunning variety of different blooms including irises, lilacs, columbine, tulips, daffodils, bluebells and snowball bushes.

Photo by Pete Strong

Buena Vista Flowers grows a stunning variety of different blooms including irises, lilacs, columbine, tulips, daffodils, bluebells and snowball bushes.

"She's the flower person," Cordner said. "I say I'm in charge of infrastructure and maintenance."

Dean grows all the flowers she sells, meaning her weeks from mid-March through October or November are very structured. She sells flowers to businesses in Corvallis, makes home deliveries for customers, attends Salem's Saturday Market, and makes arrangements for weddings and other special occasions -- making the rounds in her "flower power wagon," an old Volkswagen bus.

Dean picks a handful of Dutch Irises from two beds full of the vibrant flowers May 1 to prepare for the Salem Saturday Market and deliveries to homes and businesses.

Photo by Pete Strong

Dean picks a handful of Dutch Irises from two beds full of the vibrant flowers May 1 to prepare for the Salem Saturday Market and deliveries to homes and businesses.

This time of year, Dean's flower beds really begin to bloom.

"It's one thing after another," she said. "I try to get something new every week, so I'm not selling the same thing. That gets boring."

Business slows in late fall and Dean sells dried flowers in the winter.

Fresh bouquets and dried flowers not sold at market or to regular customers go on display in Cordner's greatest feat of "infrastructure and maintenance," the barn on the corner of Willamette Ferry and Riverview roads.

Most of the materials used to build the barn were recycled or salvaged. Former students of Independence Elementary School might recognize the windows and light fixtures. On their way to a garbage dump after a school remodel, Dean rescued them for reuse at Buena Vista Flowers. Cordner designed the rest of the building around the windows.

Cordner laughs as he reads through the comments in Buena Vista Flowers

Photo by Pete Strong

Cordner laughs as he reads through the comments in Buena Vista Flowers' guest book. He built the "barn" mostly from reclaimed materials over several years.

"Most of the lumber is from old hop barns from down in Independence," Cordner said. "It was a several-year project of gathering the materials, pulling the nails, scraping the paint off and starting over again."

Essentially a self-serve flower shop, customers can go in and select their favorite bouquet and leave their money in the mail slot. A chalk board provides new customers with instructions.

Dean said it gives Buena Vista Flowers another way to serve customers without having to mind a store.

"We are around most days, but we don't have time to see if people are up there," Dean said. "They can call us or look for us if they need to talk to us. If they don't, they can just get their flowers."

To make it simple, bouquets are priced at $6 or $12 and if people need change and Dean and Cordner are nowhere to be found, customers can leave a note and be given credit.

Variety of different blooms are grown

A variety of different blooms are grown

"One day we got a bag full of pennies," Cordner said. "We took it down to the bank and it came out to $6 and some odd cents, so I guess they got a bouquet with it."

The couple leaves a guest book for customers to sign, too. Cordner gets a kick out of some of the messages. Paging through the book, he finds his favorite.

"My daughter and I love to come get flowers," he read. "She's 6 (years old) and thinks that fairies must live here."

Need flowers?

What: Buena Vista Flowers.

Where: 5915 Willamette Ferry St., Buena Vista, south of Independence. You can also find Mary Dean and her creations at Salem's Saturday Market in downtown Salem.

Contact: 503-838-4456.

Of note: Buena Vista Flowers also does weddings and special occasions.