Living Ind

The Flower Ladies

by Mary Tutwiler

For two Carencro sisters, a hobby turns into a blooming side business.

Watch the video above about the Flower Ladies

By day, Marilyn Arton tends those at the end of life in her job as a hospice nurse. Susan Durio is an accountant. Every evening, as twilight paints the sky azalea pink, the women drive home to their neighboring houses in Carencro, swap their heels for Crocs, and head out to the garden. Cicadas buzz and doves call while the women cut zinnias, sunflowers, celosias, foxgloves and other long-stemmed flowers from their 5-acre garden.

On weekends, Durio and Arton appear at the Oil Center farmers’ market in the appearance of their alter egos, Les Dames des Fleurs. Behind a table decked with small and large bouquets, they sell their fresh-cut flowers and talk about their hobby and side business to customers drawn to the fragrant display. “People seem so surprised that we grow good cut flowers here,” says Arton. The cut flower industry houses miles of greenhouse blooms that are cut, chilled, and shipped from as far away as Hawaii, California and South and Central America to florists here in Lafayette. Durio and Arton offer an alternative to long stemmed roses genetically engineered for waxy, scentless long life. Their small charming bouquets of antique roses — “tussy mussies,” Arton calls them — pulsate with perfume and the occasional grasshopper that caught a ride into town from the fields.

Photo by Terri Fensel

As the seasons turn so do the blooms. Fall zinnias, chrysanthemums, and perhaps some dalias turn up in September bouquets. Winter is a time for turning beds and planting cool-weather flowers like sweet peas. Come spring the beds explode with wildflowers like calendula and salvias, as well as native Louisiana phlox, tulips, daffodils, and delicate queen ann’s lace. The two sisters are looking forward to the day they both retire and can raise flowers full time. “It’s good therapy to come home and pull weeds,” Durio says. Unless it flowers before they get to it, like the Polk weed at their feet. With a snip of Arton’s shears, the starry flower stalk joins the sunflowers in her bucket of blooms.

For more information on Les Dames des Fleurs, call 896-7107. Contact Mary Tutwiler at [email protected]