Igrew up in the Pacific Northwest before moving back to my family’s hometown of Pittsburg in the 80s. Growing up in the East Bay is how I met my lifelong partner and husband, Jon “Boogie” Fredrickson, and where I started my medical career working in surgery centers. Although I worked in the field of “fixing” people, my passion and where I derived the most pleasure was digging in soil, bringing life to succulents. In 2015, as part of a Mother’s Day project, I posted a few of the succulent arrangements I had created on Facebook Marketplace. The response was overwhelming and my business “The Antiqued Leaf” grew hardy from there.
Personal requests came flooding in for specialized succulent arrangements people wanted for various purposes. Whether a client wanted a special wreath to adorn their front door, or a simple potted arrangement to give as a gift, I have stayed consistently busy creating these green, living artworks. The most popular request as of late has been for the transformation of birdbaths into succulent gardens. In October, I am doing pumpkins, which I call “pumpculents,” that come in a variety of colors with a succulent arrangement on top. For holidays, I do both living and faux swags and wreaths. The great thing about succulents is they may only last for a few months to a year, but you can keep the base of your design and plug in new life to spruce them up anytime. I also often have requests for cemetery plots, as succulents will last longer without water than flowers. Of course, the online leg of my business and my presence on Etsy is what keeps me most occupied.
One of my larger projects can be seen at Skipolini’s Pizza in Antioch. While they were overhauling their outdoor landscape, I received a request to repurpose their huge, focal-point fountain into a glorious, drought resistant succulent planter. In previous years, I have had fun touring the various fall-through-Christmas craft fairs selling my custom arrangements. This year, I have mainly been at the Livermore Farmers’ Market on Thursdays and Sundays, and locally I am at Bacchini’s Fruit Tree stand on Walnut Boulevard on Wednesdays alongside Brentwood Blooms, who feature fresh cut flowers.
Word of mouth and social media have been excellent tools in spreading word of what I can offer. This business has fortified my family so much that in 2019 when the head doctor for my surgery center retired, I too decided to end my medical career and pursue my dream job full time. Now, toiling in the soil is something I can do anytime! My two boys and my husband readily pitch in to help so it really is a family effort, and one that brings us all joy.
Most cities have programs that offer credit to homeowners allowing them to remove their sod and replace their landscaping with rock or succulents to save money on their water bill. The great thing about cacti and succulents is that you don’t need to have a green thumb in order to grow them. They can give you splashes of color throughout your landscaping and some will even give you flowers. What I find most magical about succulents is that they can multiply, growing something from almost nothing.
I feel a special resonance with succulents for this reason, there is a connection for me, inspiring me to give back.
Another reason is I lost my brother when he was killed in a car accident and, being an organ donor, he was able to give life to another human being. After his passing, my family received a thank you card from UCSF with blue butterflies adorning the design. I didn’t know that those butterflies represented donors until that moment. I chose to incorporate blue butterflies into my logo, in honor of all donors. One day, I hope to be involved in a non-profit that benefits those who unselfishly sacrifice in that way. Succulents are self-propelled and give life to new beginnings.
I have been in talks with local grocery stores to provide small, individual arrangements that will be a quick grab and go to adorn your desk or give as a gift. I’m really excited about my future prospects and look forward to attending a popular Livermore outdoor event called Batch: A Maker’s Market, coming up this fall. Maybe one day I will have a brick and mortar boutique, but for now, I am very happy kneeling in someone’s back yard popping new life into their outdoors or dressing their windowsills with nature’s little living sculptures.
Photos by Melissa Van Ruiten