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Annie Zunino of AZ Floral

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While some artists create masterpieces with paint or clay, Annie Zunino creates beautiful works of art with blooms and stems. Although design was a passion, this Lodi native spent several years after graduation working with kids in after-school programs and being a nanny. Missing the creative component in her life, she opted to attend college for interior design at Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising, San Francisco, in 2007. But it was during the 60th wedding anniversary of her grandparents, John Sr. and Ann Van Ruiten, that she discovered a deep love and skill for floral design and event planning.

As planning for the milestone celebration picked up steam, Annie and her family really wanted to make the occasion special and elegant for the elder Van Ruitens. “I mentioned that I wanted to do the floral arranging myself. My mom always had beautiful gardens when I was growing up, so I knew what to do with blooms and greenery. I also learned by watching my mom nurture and create floral arrangements within a business she owned.”

After researching wholesale flower markets, Annie ordered close to 1,000 blooms coordinated with every detail of the tables. Once the lengthy creative process of ordering and arranging the flowers was complete, Annie was hooked. “On the day of their 60th wedding anniversary, I worked 12 hours straight, but never felt like I was working. It was so fun and inspiring to me. I knew in that moment I needed to pursue this new love and I created my business in 2010.”

Meet AZ Floral Designs
The fragrance and beauty of blooms fill this ambitious entrepreneur’s day, a work-related benefit that Annie welcomes. AZ Floral Design is known for creating beautiful floral arrangements, but her home-grown and locally owned business offers so much more. Annie has added a new service to her growing business and this offering has earned her a stellar reputation for styling photo shoots. Her work has been showcased in ten different Trendsetter wedding shoots with HERLIFE Magazine.

“Four years ago, Kim Mullen suggested that I meet Tammie Dimas, owner of Bliss Bridal Salon,” Annie recalled. “I introduced myself to Tammie and talked with her about doing a styled bridal shoot and incorporating her dresses. This began a joint collaboration that includes styling for many shoots, bridal fairs and events taking place at Bliss.”

Last year, Bliss moved to Stockton’s Miracle Mile and joined forces with AZ Floral Design in a more permanent capacity. AZ Floral Design is now based at Bliss; that’s where prospective clients meet for floral consultations. Services include bridal décor styling, floral design and wine workshops, interior décor plant items and made-to-order arrangements.

“I am incredibly busy but my company has evolved in such a way that I never feel like I am working. I love every minute of what I do on a daily basis,” Annie affirmed. “I love party planning and exploring new ideas to inspire my floral designs. The elegant and organic bouquets that speak to guests are a very personal thing and each client has their own idea of what is stunning. Being able to share a vision for something that is in someone else’s mind, and bring that vision to life, is a challenge sometimes. But when I can create something that leaves my clients and brides awestruck, it’s the best reward of all.”

Cultivating a Craft
An innovative thinker at heart, Annie is always on the hunt for the pieces, props and flowers that offer different textures and looks for her events and stylings. As trends shift and change, so do her creations. Past trends have included tightly packed floral arrangements of roses and hydrangeas with no greenery that evolved to a more organic garden style incorporating different textures and a natural flow. Go-to flowers that are crowd pleasers, but always work well in arrangements, include garden roses, ferns, ranunculus, dinnerplate dahlias and anemones.

This busy creative knows that brides need to trust their florist and designer when creating a look for their special day. “There is an art to styling blooms and picking stems that will look their best the day of an event,” Annie observed. “Over the years I honed my skills to the point that I can look at a bud and know if it will open in time, or cut a stem a certain way so it will be at its optimal beauty. Bringing events to life for my clients is a responsibility I take very seriously.”

Enjoying Life to the Fullest
When she’s not creating magic with her blooms, stylings and designs, Annie loves to spend time with friends, her beloved 9 year-old German shepherd and her nieces, Lillian and Moira. Lakes, beaches and mountain excursions are high on her list of relaxation options. Honoring her family’s heritage of cultivating and nurturing, she’s dabbling in growing her own blooms and has designated a special plot on her grandparents’ property for her first-ever private flower garden. “My new flower garden is a trial, but I am really hoping beautiful things grow. It would be so wonderful to incorporate blooms that I’ve grown myself into some of my designs and displays!”

Annie offered some words of wisdom to aspiring entrepreneurial women. “If you find that you are really good at something, follow your heart and work hard to hone your talents. Be confident in your abilities and give everything you do 110 percent.”

For those looking for their own gathering or dinner party inspiration, Annie advises that a hostess who incorporates items from inside her home to an outdoor get-together will provide a more personal feel for her guests. “It’s all about bringing the inside out,” she noted. “Creating a memorable backdrop for a gathering doesn’t have to be grandiose or expensive. It’s easy to utilize what you already own to set the stage and give your guests what I call ‘the experience.’” ■