ISSUE 31  |  Patterns and Prints

Trend Alert: San Francisco’s Favorite Flower Truck

August 04, 2014 4:00 PM

BY Cynthia Salaysay

Roaming the streets of San Francisco is a little old delivery truck teeming with flowers. In the driver’s seat is Rebekah Northway, whose floral design business, The Petaler, makes arrangements for some of the sleeker interiors around the city. With a cough and a sputter, the truck dutifully chugs up and down the hills, its flowers trembling with the engine’s rumble.

Photography by Tom Kubik for Gardenista.

Above: Rebekah Northway has been a florist for eight years. When she realized she couldn’t fit tall branches in her old sport utility vehicle, she got something with a little more headroom.

Above: Many of Northway’s clients are restaurants: She makes floral arrangements for The Battery, Zuni Cafe, Frances, and others. 

Above: Her flower truck is an antique–a 1984 AM General. “They don’t make them anymore,” says Northway. She painted it slate gray and put the Petaler’s sweeping logo on its side. “I didn’t think of branding, you know, adding my website address and all that.”

Above: The truck’s low profile gives it a mystique–people wonder what, exactly, the Petaler is. But its boxy, familiar shape recalls American summers–the milkman, the mail truck, the ice cream man on a warm afternoon. “Kids look at it with their mouths open,” says Northway.

Above: The truck does more than serve as a reminder of bygone days. “It just makes my day more efficient,” says Northway, whose arrangements frequently tower with architectural branches.

Above: The truck is wide and high enough to allow for clients’ branches to be carried inside in well-anchored pails of water.

Above: Globe thistles.

Occasionally, the Petaler pops up at events, selling small bouquets. 

Above: The wild bounty inside the truck can seem to overflow. It’s not unusual for passersby to peek inside, see the blooms (fuzzy baby quince, potato-sized poppy-heads), and ask to buy a bouquet.

Above: For more of The Petaler in action, see Northway’s Instagram feed @thepetalersf.

For another type of florist in San Francisco, see A Fearless Forager Opens a Flower Shop in SF. And read about a Mission District cafe with a florist’s shop in a shipping container at Shopper’s Diary: Lila B. Design at the Stable Café.

It’s the last week to vote for your favorite finalists in the Considered Design Awards! You can vote once a day on Gardenista and Remodelista until August 8th; we’re announcing the winners August 9th.