The Unlikely Florist is sweeping Venice off its feet with rustic bouquets and a van named Untho
By Christina Campodonico
It’s hard not to fall for The Unlikely Florist’s beautiful bouquets. Spilling from a 1980 VW Vanagon, the rustic arrangements of blushing protea, ruddy South African pincushions and mustard-yellow billy balls attract people like spring blossoms charm honey bees. Small children run to the modified camper van parked outside the beachy Great White café on Pacific Avenue as if it were hawking ice cream; parents wrangle them to get a family picture. Aspiring social media influencers flock to the flora, burying camera-ready faces into bouquets that make for inspired accent pieces in requisite photos of the Venice Sign instantly shared to “the Gram.”
Maybe the world has gone super bloom crazy. Perhaps people are just dizzy with the joy of springtime. More likely, it’s the magnetic vision of the man behind the flower van — 29-year-old Venice transplant Spencer Falls, aka The Unlikely Florist.
Over the past three years, the young petal purveyor originally from New Zealand has romanced Venice and charmed Instagram — more than 29,000 followers — with unique bunches of Australian and South African flora scattered with blooms from around the world. Along the way, Falls has built an enviable business that encompasses street sales, subscriptions, pop-up events at his Hampton Drive studio and even set decoration for fashion photography. His most famous floral installation to date is a wall of luscious red roses that graced the cover of Vogue India last year along with, you know, Kim Kardashian.
All the positive attention, however, has not changed the incredibly down-to-earth Kiwi brought up on an orchard in northeastern New Zealand.
“The more I get into this business, the more I feel like it was always meant to be,” says Falls, who came to Los Angeles to pursue acting after 100 episodes on a New Zealand soap opera. “There’s nothing foreign to me about feeling an organic skin or a really strong branch. I grew up skinning apples and pruning trees.”
Falls still picks flowers like he would apples, rolls with his van when he’s in town, wraps up his bouquets with burlap and twine, and takes great pleasure in the profusion of protea that recently blossomed in his Venice backyard.
(“There’s 90 different types of protea. It’s called the protea because it’s named after the Greek god Proteus, who was a shape shifter, because there are so many different variations of it,” he says. “It’s crazy!”)
Home is still not far from the street where he first encountered the quirky van turned flower-mobile that would change his fortunes.
“I’m a little bit attracted and addicted to things that have history to them,” says Falls. “The van was no exception. He’s older than me; he has something to teach me.”
The “he” would be “Untho,” the vintage van that Falls bought and named during his pre-florist years waiting tables and struggling to make it in Hollywood. Once Falls got the seed of the idea to start selling flowers out of his van, Untho soon became a vehicle for literally moving inventory — and attracting eyeballs.
“When you got a great van that’s so epic and so beautiful and has so much character … [and] you buy great flowers that are unbelievable and breathtaking and positive, how do those two things not go together?” Falls muses.
What sets The Unlikely Florist’s bouquets apart is how they balance attention-grabbing bursts of color with a supporting cast of lush greenery.
“I definitely don’t shy away from greens and having eucalyptuses and rhododendrons and such. So I’m often trying to create a very organic look to my arrangements. … It’s ultimately like a composition, a balance of these beautiful flowers,” he says. “I feel as though many florists use epic flower on top of epic flower on top of unbelievable flower, and while that’s awesome … these flowers aren’t getting their due respect or their due appreciation if they’re just stacked on top of each other.”
After restoring Untho and equipping him with handmade flower racks, Falls initially set up shop on Abbot Kinney Boulevard in front of Gjelina Take Away but “was actually kicked off the street before I even sold one flower,” he recalls. “I had to relocate onto Rose [Avenue], and rest assured I was back on Abbot Kinney the next day. … We used to do this on a much more guerrilla-type sort of status.”
The persistence paid off and has led to collaborations with brands such as TOMS shoes, Airbnb Experiences, street and surf wear company Banks Journal, and most recently Northern California cannabis company Humboldt Farms, which has partnered with The Unlikely Florist to bring bouquets in the zeitgeist of the California super bloom (and cannabis education) to dispensaries and public spots across L.A. this spring. On Saturday, (aka 4/20, that most sacred of pot holidays) they’ll set up along Abbot Kinney, so keep an eye out. The Unlikely Florist will be handing out penny bouquets, and Humboldt will be offering information and discount codes for the canna-curious.
Marketing aside, Falls says the true mission of his bouquets is to spread appreciation and positivity.
“Flowers to me are like the most positive thing there is in the world — they’re pure nature, they’re pure beauty, they’re just so pure,” he emphasizes. “That was probably the reason why I fell in love so much with flowers and being a florist — the sheer appreciation and the experience of making flower arrangements for people. You sit in the van and you put out a bunch of flowers and you hang out and people come up and they’re so happy. They’re looking to celebrate; they’re looking to thank someone; they’re looking to show love, show appreciation. There’s nothing negative about it.
“I think unfortunately at this moment in time, we have many reasons in California and worldwide to feel real f**king gutted about what’s going on in the world — whether it be because there were fires that ripped through California and took many lives and f**ked up many homes, or the political state of the world, or the fact that like cathedrals are burning in Paris. People need positive and inspiring things to experience in life when there’s so much gnarly stuff going on.”
Ultimately, Falls hopes “to inspire the world to enjoy more flowers — that they’re not a waste of money, that they don’t just die out after a couple of days,” he says. “My flowers last for a couple of weeks, and hopefully they can continue to inspire and excite the receiver for weeks after they’ve been purchased, and therefore keep that person happy and excited and motivated in life.”
The Unlikely Florist pops up along Abbot Kinney Boulevard this Saturday (April 20) at a surprise time. Check @humfarms on Instagram for updates. Follow @theunlikelyflorist on Instagram or visit theunlikelyflorist.com to keep up with Falls’ adventures.