The Dahlia Lady of Costa Mesa

If you've visited Kean Coffee in Newport Beach (...but really Costa Mesa) in the last few months, you'll notice their abundance of beautiful, brightly colored, fresh-cut dahlias in all shapes and sizes—some, bigger than your face—on display.

And if you peer even closer, you'll notice homemade business cards advertising fresh-cut dahlias grown by Leah Banks of Costa Mesa.

Banks, 58, has been selling fresh-cut dahlias out of her backyard for some 12 years now, but has been tending the flowers for 20. Her backyard is home to over 100 blooming dahlia bushes in vibrant purples, pinks, yellows, whites—any color you can think of—and the blooms are cut to your choice right then and there by Banks herself.

When asked if her dahlias business is booming, thanks to the advertisement at Kean Coffee (which is also booming), Banks replies that she doesn't know how to measure success really.

"Remember, it's seasonal. So the thing about dahlias is that you have to love to do it. It's not like you're getting paid very much. If you figure the time and the hours that I put into the garden, I'm probably getting a quarter a hour. I do sell a lot of flowers, and I do make some money, but I literally put in three full [collective] days of work a week," Banks says.

"You have to love to do it for the desire to do it. You do get some dahlias for free," she laughs, "But as far as a giant success, you should look elsewhere."

Banks has a day job at Newport Beach's Fashion Island with Restaurant Enterprises, a 690-restaurant company which owns chains like El Torito.

"I've been with the company for years," she says. "So I have my health insurance, my dental insurance... and now I've got some dahlias. Dahlias are my hobby because they're opposite of what I do—they're quite and peaceful and enjoyable."

Click after the jump for some more photos of dahlias (along with a gratuitous shot of my brand new kitten) purchased from Banks.

Fresh-cut dahlias grown by Leah Banks are on sale only from June through October. Blooms range from $3-$7 each, depending on size. 1589 Riverside Pl., Costa Mesa, (949) 642-8107.


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