Youk enjoys upcycling at Aunt Bee's

Staff writer

There are plenty of options at Aunt Bee’s Floral and Gifts in Marion for those looking for a special Mother’s Day gift with everything from purses, jewelry, and specialized clothing to fresh flowers, bedding plants and statuary. However, the most unique items in the greenhouse out back are plants and flowers growing in upcyled pots and containers.

“I really enjoy keeping an eye out for unusual containers,” owner Wendy Youk said. “I like to junk if I ever have a spare moment.”

Ash buckets, porcelain pans, teapots, loaf pans, and other ceramic containers take on new life when combined with colorful flowers of all types.

“It’s always a guessing game as to what customers are going to like,” Youk said. “But our unique containers seem to attract a lot of attention.”

Bedding plants, vegetable starts, and colorful flowers of all kinds fill the greenhouse at Aunt Bee’s, but the weather has kept Youk and her staff of six guessing.

“It’s just crazy this time of year,” Youk said. “Last year we were almost done with plant sales by this time, but this year we are just getting started.”

In addition to helping garden enthusiasts get growing, Youk provides flowers for funerals, wedding, proms, and other special occasions.

“Marion just had their prom, Centre’s is this weekend, and Memorial Day coming up is always a big weekend,” Youk said. “It seems like this year we have combined everything into a four-week time span. It is just very busy.”

Youk said busy times made her especially thankful for her staff in the gift shop and the floral center.

“You almost have to be a jack of all trades to work here,” she said. “I have good people, some with 30 plus years of experience, so that really helps.”

Youk, a lifelong gardener, said she always dreamed of owning a business like Aunt Bee’s along with her dad, Irvin Brunner, when she was growing up near Ramona.

“Unfortunately, he died before I bought this place in 2007,” she said. “But he would be proud of me now.”

Youk shares her interest in gardening with her husband, Justin, who used to work in landscaping and as a golf course greens keeper. Together they have created an attractive yard and garden at the end of North Third Street.

“We have a lot of perennials growing at home,” she said. “I really like the bedding plants.”

At the store at 1201 E. Main, Youk said one of her favorite plants was coleus because of the colorful foliage. Shop cat Panther, however, seemed to prefer the geraniums.

“Panther just showed up here about six months ago,” Youk said. “He was wild but we started feeding him and now he loves hanging out in the greenhouse with me. We call him our shop kitty.”

Youk enjoys the variety of experiences she gets working with her floral and gift business. It is what keeps her going when the busy season hits.

“Every day is different,” she said. “That is what makes it fun.”

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