Valentine’s Day arrives for me in the form of giant red hearts perched on poles along Coast Highway bordering Laguna Nursery. Just as pumpkins announce Halloween and glittery lights mark Christmas, owner Ruben Flores decorates our urban landscape as well as the yards and gardens of clients throughout the world. I am an unabashed fan.
I first wrote about Ruben six years ago, in “Laguna Life and People” magazine, when he took ownership of the landmark nursery. I interviewed him at his home, from which he operated his award-winning landscaping enterprise: Visionscape.
That home sits at the top of a steep hill where multiple terraces have been carved into the earth as not only patios, but as display and staging area for the garden accessories that ultimately find their way to the grounds of a client. Ruben scours the world for fountains and timepieces, benches and sculptures, in contemporary and traditional designs that suit his aesthetic, and many of these can now be found at the Hip District nursery.
Laguna Nursery is far more than a garden shop. I suggest you wander as if an art gallery. Every inch of space is filled with fanciful or elegant, and often one-of-a-kind pieces. Make sure to look up because treasure is piled to the rafters. On the back of the property, along Glenneyre Street, a formerly run-down structure was transformed into a gift shop, an addition to the business that also enhanced the neighborhood.
I once called Ruben an earth whisperer, because he seems to be able to coax from the land an exquisite blend of indigenous plant life and plantings by design. With a degree in horticulture and a famous passion for all things beautiful, especially in the garden, he told me he is still happiest digging in the dirt, when he’s not on an acquisition venture, or serving the community.
These days Ruben is also a community whisperer, with his fingertips on many philanthropic projects meant to beautify Laguna Beach. With very little coaxing about five years ago, he dispatched plants and planters across the highway to dress up the grounds around Friendship Shelter. He serves as consultant to the South Laguna Community Garden, frequently conducts garden tours, and was recently drafted to the beautification committee of the Chamber of Commerce.
Ruben also organizes lively special events at the Nursery, including cabaret nights and wine tastings. In addition to the orchid festival on display now, he will host a Valentine’s Day bash on Feb. 16. I can tell you from experience that the food and wine are always fine.
For more about Ruben and his whisperings, go to www.lagunanursery.net.
Randy Kraft is a freelance writer who previously covered the city for the Indy and pens the OC BookBlog for www.ocinsite.com. This column features Laguna businesses and business people.