Wild Stems Founder Ana Cuciuc On L.A.'s Spirit Flower and Her Go-To Gardens

Welcome to 10 Questions, a monthly series that explores L.A. through the eyes of its coolest citizens.

Ana Cuciuc wild stems la flower shop
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Wild Stems Arrangement
Wild Stems Founder
Wild Stems Interior
Wild Stems Interior
Wild Stems Interior
Wild Stems Arrangement
Wild Stems Interior
Wild Stems Interior
Wild Stems Arrangement

There are few natural wonders that bring spring to mind more than blooms do. They're a symbol of Mother's Earth's fertility, new life, and the arrival of balmy weather. And although L.A. is in its third year of a worsening drought, there are plenty of ways to imbue your space with spring vibes without foraging on your own and potentially disrupting the natural order of things.

Case in point: The beautiful bespoke wildflower arrangements Ana Cuciuc crafts out of her Fairfax flower boutique Wild Stems. While on an Eat Pray Love-style self-exploration journey in Italy, the Moldova native's heart told her something more awaited her in L.A.

"I guess it was the need to create and discover who I really was, or what I was meant to become. I got a ticket, came here with a bag of clothes and one with beads and jewelry supplies as I was a jewelry designer at the time. I had no idea what's waiting for me here, but I was curious to explore," Cuciuc tells UncoverLA.

It took a bit of bouncing around but eventually, the universe gave her a sign: a flower shop in South Pasadena was hiring for a floral designer assistant. She reached out via Instagram, and the job was hers. She said, "My first day there was most magical moment I've had that year."

Three years later, Cuciuc never thought she would sign the lease for her own flower shop. We sat down with the bloom buff to discuss the interior design inspo for her shop, which flower she thinks best embodies L.A., her go-to gardens, and more as part of our monthly '10 Questions' series where we explore L.A. through the eyes of some of the coolest Angelenos. Keep reading and scroll through the gallery above to check out Wild Stems and Cuciuc's bubbly flower arrangements.

Wild Stems Arrangement
Photo: Courtesy of Wild Stems

Tell us more about your career journey and what brought you to floral design.

A few years ago when I first moved to the U.S., I saw a lady in a grocery store making flower arrangements. I was thinking "Oh, I didn't know this was a thing! Maybe I should be a floral designer!" I started looking for some classes at the community college in Chicago, but I never had the courage to pursue that dream. I took a break from the U.S. and moved to Italy where I was a jewelry designer. In 2018, I visited L.A. for a short vacation and, one night after a party saw on Instagram that a flower shop in South Pasadena was hiring a floral designer assistant. I replied to their story from my jewelry account and basically got hired right away.

My first task was to fill vases with water and I vividly remember being so disappointed and thinking "Oh, this is what my job is supposed to be? I thought I'd be playing with flowers!" It was the week before Mother's Day and I had no idea what a spray rose or a silver dollar eucalyptus was. I had to Google every name as I didn't want to bother anyone with basic questions. It was that same week when they were preparing for a wedding and one of the ladies told me I was a natural. That motivated me to be even better and learned as much as I could. I decided to stay in L.A. and pursue that dream! A few months later I got the offer to manage the shop and that's how I learned everything I know today. 

What inspired you to open your own retail shop?

During quarantine, I spent a lot of time in nature foraging flowers, drying them, and making mini dried flower arrangements. I was selling on Etsy, and at one point, I realized that I miss working with fresh flowers a lot! They simply have a different energy!

Since my apartment was already filled with dried flowers, I took over my boyfriend's apartment. After a few days of running from one apartment to the other and leaving a mess behind, I realized it was time to find a place. I was terrified, yet determined to find a cute spot and make it a gem. Having a passion for what I do combined with a lot of experience and online presence helped me get the space.

What were the interior design inspiration and your original vision for the boutique?

When I first got the space, it was all white with a lot of natural light and I wanted to keep it that way for a while. I preferred to take it slow, feel the vibe and focus on the working areas. All I needed were a few wooden tables and shelves. I knew the flowers would bring a lot of color and life.

My original vision was to have a place where flowers, plants, and art can be together. I built all the working tables, painted some walls in a light peachy color, and mainly focused on flowers. Then, my boyfriend joined me with a curated vintage collection and rock 'n' roll memorabilia. We painted the walls in a greyish color and added some rock n' roll posters, abstract paintings, and some local products. The shop is still changing every week and we love to see our customers' reactions every time they come back.

Wild Stems Arrangement
Photo: Wild Stems

Can you share more about the other products and brands stocked at the shop?

My vision was to have a bunch of different local artists that would rotate every month. The first who joined was my best friend Ana Mardare with some oil paintings and cards. Then, my friend Trystan brought her Good Witch collection of candles and CBD bath bombs. Ben named his vintage collection Wild Threads L.A. and we also have some P.F. Candle Co. products. Our latest addition is the Object Made ceramic vases by the very talented Natasha Yaroshenko. I'm planning on finding more local artists and collaborating with them soon.

Congrats on celebrating Wild Stem's one-year anniversary! What were some of the biggest challenges you experienced in the first year of opening?

Thank you! It was definitely a ride with lots of ups and downs. Some of my biggest challenges were to unlearn a lot of things I've known before and adapt to the new world, keeping up with all the administrative tasks when all I wanted to do was design floral arrangements and installations, learn to delegate, and trust my team, take breaks, set up boundaries, and learn to be patient. 

This pandemic turned my life upside down. It started with me being a co-owner of another flower shop that I had to leave a few months after opening. I spent some time at home and in nature questioning my entire existence. I wanted to travel for a while, but since everything was closed, I had to come up with another solution. I remember thinking that since I can't go anywhere, I might as well open a business. I had the option to move into a bigger apartment or find a space for the shop. I was scared to commit, but I knew I could make a difference by opening a flower shop and bringing some beauty to the neighborhood. Now I can't imagine doing anything differently. I feel very blessed and grateful for every step of this journey!

Do you have any new projects in the pipeline you can tell us about?

We're working on our flower subscription program that will bring Angelenos seasonal wildflowers from local flower farms. We also want to host some fun summer nights with live music, flower workshops, and monthly pop-ups featuring local artists.

Wild Stems Founder
Photo: Courtesy of Wild Stems

What flower would you say best embodies L.A. and why?

That's a great question! I think it depends on perspective. It can be anything from a weed leaf or charming peony to a poppy or outstanding fritillary, or even a fragrant garden rose. It has to be an interesting flower – one that has personality and charm. It can also be a lotus because it grows in muddy water, has a remarkable beauty, and symbolises rebirth and spiritual enlightenment – something we know L.A. is into.

What can Angelenos do to better accommodate bees, butterflies, and other pollinators while remaining water-conscious?

I think planting native wildflowers and having a small bowl with salt water in their gardens or balcony will attract more bees! The wildflowers provide food while the sodium, magnesium, and potassium found in salt are beneficial for their metabolism.

Favorite flower or garden attractions in and around L.A.?

I love Descanso Gardens and the Huntington Botanical Gardens, but there are so many flower fields all around L.A. Right now is actually the perfect time to go out and explore. From the Malibu mountains to Topanga Canyon, and every other hike in L.A., there are plenty of beauties waiting to be discovered and admired!

What advice would you give to new women entrepreneurs trying to make it in L.A.?

I would say to follow your heart, embrace who you are, be unique, trust your creative process, don't try to fit in, create your own rules, make an impact, and most importantly – have fun! Los Angeles is the perfect place for all the weirdos and wild hearts! Oh, and don't forget to celebrate every tiny victory and treat yourself with some wildflowers!

What's your spirit flower?

That changes every season. I love anemones and corn flowers in winter, fritillaries and bearded irises in spring, cosmos in summer, and some specific colours and shapes of dahlias in fall. If I had to pick only one I would probably go with the cosmos.

Wild Stems, 7383 Beverly Blvd., L.A., 90036; (323) 879-9367; open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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