While film and TV production is on hold, the actress has launched a mobile flower service out of a VW delivery bus
Words by ELIZABETH VARNELL
“Flowering is physical!” says Abigail Spencer, describing her morning prepping pampas grass for County Line Florals, her just-launched Los Angeles-based bouquet delivery service. “It’s buckets and water, and to me it’s a new way to tell stories,” she adds.
The actress, writer and producer — who apprenticed with Ann Reinking at 15, and began her acting career while still in high school in Gulf Breeze, Fla. — has spent over two decades in film and television, with roles in Oz The Great and Powerful, Chasing Mavericks, True Detective, Rectify, Timeless and, most recently, Reprisal. She had always gifted her on-set crew with blooms over the years,and, with film production still suspended in L.A., she decided to pivot. After drawing up a business plan and receiving a little help from her cadre of creative friends and artists, she fast-tracked her mobile flower hobby into a fully grown concept.
Actor and COUNTY LINE FLORALS founder ABIGAIL SPENCER. Photo by Jessica Sample.
As flower shops have shuttered following pandemic mandates, Spencer’s 1965 hunter green VW van, called Betty, outfitted with pails and blooms, is crossing counties, venturing from Ojai to Culver City to Lido, with its next stop in L.A.’s Arts District. Mindful that installations, galas and openings are all being postponed due to the pandemic, Spencer and her all-women team are also developing a subscription service launching in September.
“With no events, we wanted to figure out how to make an ordinary day into an event,” Spencer says. For her, County Line Florals’ tagline, “Take care,” encompasses self-care, care for others and also a keen eye on the needs of the blooms themselves. She includes long-lasting stems in each arrangement and offers tips on how to tend to them.
“Artistry and storytelling is at the center of the company,” says Spencer, who finds herself weaving together bouquets reminiscent of the colors and textures she remembers seeing growing up along the Gulf Coast in Florida and on long road trips to California. “We need nature in our spaces now more than ever,” she adds. Here, we talk to Spencer about her previous relationships with plants, where she finds design inspiration, and the deeper meaning behind her new company’s name.
“We’re all turning inward, taking care of our minds and bodies in a new way. The quarantine has made room to slow down and take care of ourselves”
How did you get your start with plants? Do you have a green thumb?
My grandmother was a florist. When I got married at 22, she did all the flowers. I grew up around it, but the running joke in my house is that I’m a flower killer. My mother and dad, our whole family, we were always traveling, surfing, busy doing something. I think maybe we just didn’t tend to the flowers. Now I’m taking care of them all day long.
What is it about flowers that brings you joy?
It’s the gift of the pandemic. We’re all turning inward, taking care of our minds and bodies in a new way. The quarantine has made room to slow down and take care of ourselves in a way I hadn’t permitted myself to do. When I was pregnant, everyone smiled at me, and with flowers in hand, it’s a similar feeling. Amid collective grief, there’s this profound joy in blooming stems.
How do you design bouquets?
Each week we create a recipe, named after women I love. Sometimes I’m inspired by an art piece, or I reach out to the woman and ask for inspiration. We start with the essence of the person and everything goes from there. We dyed feathery plumes of dried pampas grass for a recent collab with [hat maker] Janessa Leoné.
Photo by Stephanie Schuster.
Do you work with an artistic director?
Our floral director is Alyssa Ait, who owns — with her husband, Jordan — Mother of Wild, a little flower company in Wilmington, North Carolina. They converted a VW into a mobile flower shop, and I brought them to the set of Reprisal in the fall to gift the crew. They inspired this new venture, and now that everyone is Zooming, we are too! Once a week we come up with the bouquet recipes together.
What I would say six months ago is not what I’d say now. I would have said peonies, but I’ve grown an affinity for dahlias and ranunculus. They’re like soloists in the chorus. Dahlias are so fragile. If they spoil, it spoils the whole bunch — they’ll take everyone down with them if you don’t take care of them. Could we have a better analogy for everything going on in the world right now?
What’s in the chorus?
The chorus is important. There’s stock, certain carnations, quicksand roses that look like cotton candy, snap dragons are so vital, and also baby’s breath.
COUNTY LINE FLORALS’ VW bus, known as Betty, stocked with fresh florals. Photo by Stephanie Schuster.
Your 1965 VW van was kitted out by Buck Mason’s wood fitter.
Yes, we call her Betty! Alex Deutschman of Maneuverworks, who is also from Florida, did the build-out for Betty, and he’ll be helping to develop our upcoming perma pop-up Playa Vista space — in partnership with Raan and Lindsay Parton’s Alchemy Works — inside Free Market, opening this fall. I grew up traveling to California, and I wanted to do something in homage to my dad [pro surfer Yancy Spencer], who died suddenly at County Line nine years ago on Valentine’s Day.
“Flowers are at the center of the table to bring humans together in a deeper conversation”
What’s the role of flowers right now?
The big question right now is, “How are you doing?” There’s deep collective grief over the coronavirus, over social justice, but also extreme optimism. That dance of both. Flowers are at the epicenter of that space. They’re an expression of gratitude. Flowers are at the center of the table to bring humans together in a deeper conversation.
Your forthcoming floral deliveries are modeled on a milkman model with customers leaving out jars fortnightly or monthly.
We’ll deliver handmade bouquets made up by our floristas in milkmaid pails, then refill them every other week. You can also set up the first delivery of the month for yourself and the second you can gift to someone else. And it’s all touch-less!
ABIGAIL SPENCER with a selection of white blooms. Photo by Stephanie Schuster.
What are Floral Fridays?
Betty, the VW bus, drops in. She goes out into the community — location updates on Instagram — for a local artisan experience. You can select the flowers for the bouquet or pick one that’s already created. At the end of the day, we donate extra flowers to residents at hospitals and nonprofits like Harvest Home, and we’re composting what’s left.
Where are the blooms grown?
All over. We get garden roses from Grace Rose Farm in Santa Ynez, also Rose Story Farm in Carpinteria and Floret Flower Farm in Washington. We want to work with more local growers. Maybe Betty [the bus] will go on a road trip to meet our growers. The floral industry has had to reset, but rebuilding is coming soon. So how do we do our part in the ecosystem? How do we want to rebuild?
Feature image: COUNTY LINE FLORALS’ VW bus, known as Betty. Photo by Stephanie Schuster.
July 27, 2020
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