California’s wine country combines an unforgettable abundance of locally grown produce with world-renowned wines. We partnered with Chef Ari Rosen and the team of local artisans and farmers behind his Healdsburg restaurants, Scopa and Campo Fina, as they celebrate both with a family-style meal that brings our Open Kitchen collection to life. Read our interviews with the team and try Ari’s recipes here.
As a floral designer at Healdsburg’s Dragonfly Floral, Carlisle Degischer creates arrangements for weddings and events using the flowers grown at her family’s farm. A close friend of Ari’s, she was a natural choice to join — and provide flowers for — our dinner in the vines. Here, we ask Carlisle all about her background, her gardening philosophy, and what inspires her natural, beautiful designs.
Tell us about your background. How did you get into the floral business?
I started working at Winston Stanley, a flower shop here in Healdsburg, when I was in high school. I’m going to be going to my 20th reunion next month, just to give you an idea of how long ago that was. A few years later my mom Bonnie Z turned our vegetable farm into a flower farm and floral business. While I was in college I came back and helped with events. I had a few other jobs and then moved back to Healdsburg in 2001 to work full time in the industry with my mom.
We bought the farm in 1990. We started as a specialty vegetable farm, and I helped a little in the field and went to sell at farmers’ market most weekends.
My mother deals with the client meetings, estimates and overview of events. I take all of that information and organize the heck out of it and delegate the work to our staff. I do almost all of the bridal and wedding party bouquets. Bookeeping, website, marketing, hiring, overseeing of our retail store — all the behind-the-scenes stuff is mine.
What’s special about your plants and flowers? Can you describe how the business is connected to the farm?
Dragonfly is special in that until a few years ago, no one else was doing what we are. We are a six-acre organic flower farm and full service florist. This gives us a really special palette to work with and a very special look. We have material that no one else has, incredible textures and scents. We have the luxury of using completely local product (that’s not to say that we don’t bring in stuff from other growers both near and far).
The flower industry is a really scary place. The working conditions, the chemicals, the waste. Our team is all part of our family. No one does a job that we aren’t willing to do ourselves. We all have lunch together every day that Bonnie has prepared. We don’t use any chemicals and try to be cautious of the flowers that we do bring in from other growers. And we have very little waste — we are able to recycle and compost almost everything. Bonnie has recently started using hugelkultur mounds to compost and for new planting beds. Between the business and the three households on the property, we have one small garbage can. I haven’t had the time to look at last year’s numbers, but in years past we do over 100 weddings and events and hundreds of local deliveries. We also serve a number of weekly accounts, including Campo Fina and Scopa.
What’s your gardening philosophy?
We are organic, sustainable and are really invested in bringing back the birds and other critters that have lost their home due to the monoculture that has developed with the grape farming here. This property was all grapes when we bought it 24 years ago. The neighbors all thought we were crazy when we pulled them all out. We want the garden to also be a place that people feel free to come and pass the time.
What’s your connection to the Scopa/Campo Fina team? How did you meet?
My husband Ray Degischer was working at Roshambo winery when Dawnelise and Ari moved to town. Dawnelise got a job there as well, and Ari was working at Dry Creek Kitchen. We were instantly friends. I was a bridesmaid in their wedding, and our children are best friends. I bartended at Scopa when they first opened. They are our chosen family. And we enjoy Ari’s food at both restaurants as often as we can.
What’s your favorite thing to eat at Scopa?
I refuse to eat there with people that won’t eat family style because I want it all. It really depends on my mood and the season. Either the stuffed squash blossoms, sugo and pasta special with the radicchio salad and grilled romaine salad, burrata and steak, or all of the specials. There isn’t a single thing I’ve ever had there that I don’t love!
I wanted to use primarily edible elements in the arrangements. There are cardoons, variegated sage, rosemary and broom corn, with pops of color from the crocosmia. There is also variegated forsythia, chocolate nine bark and nigella pods. Since it was an early fall dinner, I tried to stay in that palette.
What style were you trying to achieve and how is it representative of wine country?
I knew that the food was going to be bright and beautiful so I wanted to do something whimsical, understated and delicate to complement it.
What’s the best part about your job?
The people I get to work with. It is also pretty amazing to take someone else’s vision and turn it into a reality that they never dreamed possible.
Do you live in Healdsburg now? What drew you back there?
My husband, almost four-year-old son Oliver, and I live on the Dragonfly property across the driveway from my mom. I came back to help my mom with the family business. I can’t imagine living anywhere else. The farm is incredible and an idyllic place to raise our son. We are also a part of one of the most wonderful communities. We are so blessed — we are truly raising our son in a village. The kindness, support and love here is like nothing I’ve ever witnessed.
What do you love about living and working in wine country?
I could honestly take or leave wine country. It has the obvious perk of endless good wine. But it is truly the people that are so extraordinary. It is also really beautiful.
Do you cook and entertain at home? What’s your entertaining style?
We love to entertain. We are very casual — feasts that are based on what is in the garden. Our current family favorite is make your own BBQ pizzas. I like meals where people feel involved and cook together.
What’s for dinner tonight?
That’s a good question! It’s my day off so we’ll probably go to Campo Fina. Last night we had people over for BBQ pizza.