Industry Insider Interview with Diana Roy of the Resendiz Brothers Protea Farm

Resendiz Brothers flowers

The Resendiz Brothers Protea Farm is one of the largest protea flower growers in California. They specialize in a wide variety of exotics…Protea, Pincushion Protea, Banksia, Leucadendron and a variety of filler flowers and foliages.

uBloom Industry Insider Diana Roy

Diana oversees all office operations at the Resendiz Brothers Farm located in Rainbow, part of the city of Fallbrook, CA. She is married and the mother of two sons. Diana and her family, including their dog, happily reside on their 7 acre flower ranch ,”Fleurs de Roy,” set amidst the beautiful hills of Deluz, in Temecula, CA.

When did you first become interested in flowers?

That’s a difficult question – I really can’t remember. It seems like Flowers have always been an important and inspirational part of my life.

Tell us a little bit about your floral background before coming to Resendiz Brothers.

My flower history started at an early age, when my neighbors started calling me “The Flower Girl”. I never seemed to have quite enough flowers in my own yard, so I was always asking neighbors if I could cut some of theirs. Everything I did involved flowers from the wallpaper on my bedroom wall, to the crafts I selected in school, to the gift cards I sold going door to door. It was easy because I loved what I was doing and selling.

At 22, I graduated from San Diego State University with a BA in Journalism, a minor in Spanish and my emphasis in Public Relations. I quickly found a job working at the new InterContinental Hotel opening on the San Diego Harbor (now the San Diego Marriott Hotel and Marina). I started out as a Guest Relations Officer, a position which required I ensure that all VIP guestrooms were inspected for cleanliness and that all special amenities were as ordered and in place prior to the guest’s arrival. For example, I would often research what a guest’s favorite wine was, favorite flower was, or maybe their favorite author, just so I could custom tailor special gifts and amenities to their liking. In addition, I was responsible for greeting VIP’s upon their arrival and escorting them to their rooms. A great job, but it only lasted a short six months when our Resident Manager suggested I accept a new position as a Convention Service Manager. The Hotel was growing and would soon go from 683 guestrooms to 1400, and our convention business was taking off. Needless to say, I took the job and soon discovered the world of convention management.

the former InterContinental Hotel on the San Diego Harbor

As a Convention Service Manager, I became responsible for future conventions once the sales contract was signed by the company or association’s meeting planner and our hotel salesperson. My job was to assemble a resume for our hotel staff which included all the details of the conference, meeting setup requirements, special guestroom requirements, master account information, and, at times, the banquet food and beverage requirements. During this time, I met some wonderful people, attended beautifully decorated special events, and experienced some incredible off-property activities. But the best part was the flowers and the incredible theme décor I saw every day. I always found myself in the ballrooms and banquet hallways admiring all the fabulous flowers and foliage.

During the fall of 1986, while the hotel was preparing for an important convention, Meeting Planners International or then called MPI, I had an unforgettable flower experience. MPI was scheduled for early December and the hotel needed to be decorated and ready for the holidays. Our Resident Manager was looking for suggestions on how to make this year’s holiday décor extra special, and I had just the idea. An 18 foot tree in the lobby embellished with fresh orchids and anthurium, pink satin ribbon and crystal beads and ornaments, would be the perfect choice. He agreed, and I was suddenly in charge of the entire hotel’s holiday décor. It was one of those times in your life when you stop and think, “This time I am really over my head.” But I took a deep breath and assured myself, I will survive and I will get through it. And, in the end, it all turned out beautifully.
I was finally convinced that flowers were my calling when I was sent to a Marriott Management Goal Setting Seminar where I was required to plan out my next five years. While driving home that afternoon, another Marriott Manager with me asked me where I saw myself in five years. With a short pause I said, “I am going to start growing flowers.” And that’s when I made the decision to become a California Flower Farmer.

My husband, two sons and I found a home on seven acres and started planting protea, waxflower and leucadendrons. It was tough at first, the water and plants were very expensive and we went from two incomes to one. But we managed to make extra money on the side assembling bouquets from what I could harvest in my new fields as well as by collecting wildflowers, and then selling them to the ladies in my husband’s office.

After a few years of farming I realized pulling weeds and digging holes were not my forte. I also realized my friend and fellow farmer, Mel Resendiz, was a great farmer but not the best office manager or flower marketer – so we shook hands and agreed I would run his office and he would manage the fields – a great deal for us both! And nearly ten years later, we’re still growing strong!

Mel Resediz holding waxflowers

The Resendiz Brothers flower farm has a “Cinderella Story” beginning. Share with uBloomers how Ismael, the founder of the Resendiz Brothers farm, first started the business?

Growing up in La Florida, a town of 2,700 in the Sierra Madre range in Queretaro State, Mexico, Ismael “Mel” Resendiz was the middle child among 13 in a struggling farm family. In Rainbow, California, today he is the owner of Resendiz Brothers Protea Growers which employs 20 and sells over 200 varieties of flowers and foliage.

His journey to success is a story that encompasses the American dream: Even though you start with nothing, if you work hard and play by the rules, you can be successful.

Mel left home at the age of 14 and traveled to Sinaloa, Mexico, where he started his farming career cutting sugarcane and picking cotton. He also learned a lot about hard work, being quick, consistent, dependable, and getting ahead. Within a few months he graduated from cutting and picking to supervising the entire work crew.

Telopia Parfait flower

After five years in Sinaloa, at age 18 and with $70 in his pocket, Mel decided to try his luck in the United States. He quickly found a job working at Zorro Protea Farms, which in the early 1960’s developed the first commercial Protea nursery in northern San Diego County.

This became Mel’s introduction to the Protea Family – flowers and foliage he had no idea existed, at least not on this planet. “I couldn’t imagine these flowers being used in arrangements; they were so different than any flowers I had ever seen. I thought they must be used to make fancy perfume.”

a young Mel Resendiz

In 1988, at age 28, Mel was promoted to farm manager at Zorro Farms and was supervising several of his family members who had immigrated to California to join him in his Protea adventure. In 1995, Mel purchased his first piece of land – 10 acres in the hills of Rainbow, CA. He named the parcel “Rainbow Crest”, and quickly filled it with Protea plants. The next year, Mel planted himself in the United States permanently, becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen.

In 1998, the Zorro land was sold to developers, and the operation moved to Rainbow Valley. However, within a year Zorro closed its doors, leaving Mel and his family on their own. They decided to stick with their exciting and unusual flowers. “My brothers thought I was crazy. They were also a little uncertain about my unorthodox horticultural techniques, which included giving my plants lots of tender, loving care.”

Resendiz Pincushion field

Finally, Resendiz Brothers Protea Growers was formed in 1999 and Mel’s passion for flowers and plants has continued to grow. “These flowers are like my family now – they are all interesting, unique and different, I can’t choose one over the other – I love them all. Flowers are my life!”

Today, Resendiz Brothers is proud to offer an extensive selection of Banksia, Berzelia & Brunia, Filler Flowers and Foliage, Grevillea, Kangaroo Paw, Leucadendron, Leucospermum (Pincushions), and Protea. Resendiz Brother’s mission is to consistently provide the newest, freshest, unique and exotic flowers and foliage available to all their customers throughout the year. As well as to be a valuable educational resource to the floral industry and community on the Proteaceae and the many other unusual flowers and foliage they grown.

What is your job/position at Resendiz Brothers? What does your work day/week typically look like?

A typical day for me would be in the mornings working with customers and processing their orders.

My afternoons vary greatly depending on the time of the week or month. For example, I might have vendor bills to pay, other grower PO’s to process, payroll to handle, forms to fill out, supplies to order, product and plant availability sheets to update, the quarterly newsletters to write, Facebook & our blog posts to update, website changes to make, photographs to take, visiting customers to show the fields (or to just have some fun with) and the list goes on.

We all wear many hats around here, everyday there’s a new challenge, and another new learning opportunity.

What flowers and foliages do you grow at Resendiz brothers and how many varieties of protea do you grow?

We grow approximately 85 varieties of Protea, 50 Leucospermum (Pincushion), 30 Leucadendron, 30 types of Filler Flowers and several varieties of Banksia, Berzelia & Brunia, Bunched Fruits, Foliage & Greens, Grevillea, Kangaroo Paw and Waratah.

Resendiz Protea Ceres

Resendiz Pincushion Flame Giant

What do you think contributes to the success of the Resendiz Brothers farm?

Number one, the relationship we share with our customers. There’s friendship, trust and years of consistent support – it’s almost like we are committed to each other’s success. Secondly, we all work very hard here at Resendiz Brothers to provide consistent high quality flowers and foliage throughout the year. Our customers can depend on us.

What is your favorite plant/flower grown at Resendiz Brothers…and why?

There isn’t one plant or flower – they’re all different and unique – that’s why they are called Protea, after the Greek sea god Proteus, who could change his shape at will. Of course, this is referring to the surprising diversity of flowers and foliage seen among the various Protea Family members.

Resendiz flower field

Resendiz Brothers grows flowers with origins from Africa and Australia. How do you try and replicate the growing conditions in CA to satisfy the unique needs of Protea, Pincushions, Leucadendrons, Banksia, and the other heat loving plants on your farm? Are there special growing techniques or materials needed to grow your flowers?

There’s no need to try and replicate growing conditions for these plants. Our climate here in Southern California is very similar to those of S. Africa and Australia where they grow Protea and the other filler flowers and foliage we grow here at Resendiz Brothers.

What are the easiest and most difficult flowers/plants to grow…and why?

Leucadendron Safari Sunset and Protea Pink Ice are the easiest to grow because they are hardy plants and have a good root system.

Leucadendron Silver Tree and Serruria Florida are the most difficult to grow because both are extremely sensitive to heat and frost and have delicate root systems.

Resendiz Leucadendron Safari Sunset

Leucadendron - Safari Sunset

Resendiz Protea Pink Ice

Protea - Pink Ice

Resendiz Blushing Bride

Serruria Floridia

What makes Resendiz Brothers farm & products unique in the industry?

Resendiz Brothers has a very unique list of flowers and foliage – some that are often difficult to find. In addition, we have some varieties that many wholesalers and florists are unfamiliar with or unaware they exist. I really enjoy teaching our customers about new and upcoming varieties.

Describe what it’s like to harvest, sort, grade and pack flowers for shipment.

Harvesting our flowers can be very challenging since the majority of our fields are on very steep hillsides. We work in all weather conditions which can add to the normal everyday challenges.

All of our cut flowers like Protea and Pincushion are cut and packed by the stem. Depending on the time of the season, the stem lengths can range from 30” down to 12” at the end of the season. Filler Flowers, Foliage and Leucadendron are cut and bunched, most in 10 to 12 stem bunches, with a average length of 40” down to 20” depending on the variety.

Resendiz boxed protea

Name the top selling flowers at Resendiz Brothers.

Leucospermum (Pincushions), Protea, Leucadendron, Waxflowers and Protea Bouquets.

protea flower bouquet

What is one (or two) flower varieties that you think uBloomers and florists should know more about and use in their designs?

  • Protea

There are many different varieties available today, in varying sizes, shapes and colors. It’s time to learn them all by name.

  • Leucadendron

This is a wonderful family of foliage with many varieties, some with cones, some that bloom into beautiful flowers and some with soft velvety leaves.

Resendiz Leucadendron Mimetes

Leucadendron - Mimetes

Resendiz Leucadendron Butterscotch Delight

Leucadendron - Butterscotch Delight

What are your favorite flower industry magazines?

Florists’ Review, Flowers&, Floral Management, The Produce News, and FloraCulture International.

When you aren’t busy at Resendiz Brothers, what are some hobbies/interests that you enjoy?

I enjoy many activities. For example, I love cooking, especially when the fruits and vegetable I’m using come right off our farm – like apple pies. I enjoy fine wines, trips to the local vineyard and open air jazz concerts. Art festivals and farmers markets are always a wonderful way to spend some free time. I enjoy painting flowers on old furniture and street signs, making wreaths and decorating for the holidays. I actively take classes in floral design, real estate (you need land to grow flowers) and Spanish refresher courses (they help around the farm). Lastly, entertaining visiting flower friends and guests on the 18 acres, up in our flower fields, remains an all time favorite!

Diana Roy and Phil Rulloda

Diana learning to design with Protea under the watchful eye of Phil Rulloda

Bay leaf and pepper wreath designed by Diana Roy

Flower farm painting by Diana Roy

Painting flower farms on furniture is one of Diana’s favorite ways to relax

If you could travel anywhere to see a flower farm, where would you go?

That’s tough, I have already been to some wonderful flower farms in South Africa and Australia, the native countries of Protea – and I would love to return to both countries, there’s so much more to see. But, if I had to choose a new location it would be a toss-up between Holland and New Zealand.

Diana Roy in Australia

Diana visiting the Rice Flower fields in Australia

J visited Resendiz Brothers on his CA Grown Experience tour. What was it like to meet J and have him visit the grounds?

Instantly, Mel and I made four new friends J, Kelly, Chris and Keith. J is truly a flower person and flowers are the life of Resendiz Brothers, you couldn’t help but feel the excitement we all had about sharing our California Grown Flowers with people all over the world. And the best part is, J and his team are going to come back – something we are all looking forward too.

J Schwanke and the Fun With Flowers crew

Diana with J, Kelly and the Fun With Flowers & J Crew

J said that you shared with him a personal story about your father. Can you share that with uBloomers?

My father was employed by Sea World (San Diego) as helicopter pilot. He and his co-pilot were heading to a small airport when their helicopter started to have mechanical problems. They realized they had to land the helicopter quickly because it was going down. The closest open area was a schoolyard but there were children playing so they tried to divert to another open area but it was too late, and the helicopter went down in someone’s backyard. My father and his 21 year old co-pilot died instantly. I was 9 years old at the time and remember he had a large funeral with many, many beautiful arrangements. The flowers were eventually brought to the graveyard and place around his plot. When the services were over I asked my mother if we were going to leave all the beautiful flowers there to die? She said, “Why, do you want some?” And I responded yes, I want them all. So, all the flowers were delivered to my garage where the following day I assembled them into many bouquets and delivered them personally to all our neighbors.

Do you have any tips on processing and handling protea, pincushions, banksia, and leucadendrons?

Protea should be processed as follows:

  • Cut 1/4” from stem, on a slant.
  • Immediately place in a clean container with fresh water and flower food.
  • Place in a cooler at about 50 degrees.
  • Re-cut stems and change water every other day
  • Protea absorb large amounts of water, so please make sure they have plenty.
Resendiz Protea Brenda

Protea - Brenda

What are some myths or misconceptions florists may have about protea? (or pincushions, banksia, leuc).

I think the biggest misconception is that many people consider them a tropical flower or foliage, however, they are really exotics.

What design tips or ideas can you share with florists on using protea?

Protea are all very hardy and can hold up extremely well for long periods of time without water. They make wonderful hand tied bouquets and can be place right on a table or buffet – no vase, no water.

Are there any books you can recommend to uBloomers on how to design with protea?

I am not aware of any books that are exclusively dedicated to designing with Proteaceae – I would love to find one. However, Phil Rulloda features Protea in his book, “Tropical and Contemporary Designs” and so does Rene’ van Rems in his book, “Rene’s Bouquets”. Gregor Lersch is another designer who likes to design with Protea – I particularly like his book, “A Wonderful Christmas Time”. In addition, Florists’ Review and the CCFC’s book, “Wedding – Winning Bouquet Combinations”, also features Proteaceae in several bouquets.

Resendiz Leucadendron Pisa

Leucadendron - Pisa

Who are your favorite floral designers?

I appreciate the artistic and creative work of many talented designers around the world – there are many. I do have a few who I consider special because I not only appreciate what they create, but I appreciate who they are and consider them my friends – Bobbi Ecker, Jennie Lee Irey, JMH Schwanke, Phil Rulloda, and Rene’ van Rems.

What is your particular design style?

I really don’t have a particular style, per say. I love flowers however they are arranged!

Is there anything else you would like to share with uBloomers?

Here’s a picture of our dog “Lady” at home…and J already knows Lucky and Zorro from the farm!

Diana Roy's dog "Lady"