A few miles past the state park in the heart of Soda Bay resides Bell Haven Flower Farm. Pull off the road and down the drive; Bell Haven Resort sits on the right and the flower farm on the left. A bright green lawn slopes gently down to the shores of Clear Lake; oaks and redwoods stretch overhead, shading the grounds from the bright Northern California sun. Just beyond the lawn, two piers push out into the lake’s waters. It’s idyllic, peaceful, and quiet.
Lake County’s long been a special place for the Dohring family. “We’ve been married 41, almost 42 years,” Laurie Dohring, owner of Bell Haven Flower Farm, says as she strolls the grounds of their resort next door. “In fact, we honeymooned in Lake County at the Aurora Club. And my son got married in front of the house, just right here. That was back when we still came up for vacations. So when the opportunity arose, all of my children wanted us to buy the resort.
“When we began the remodel, we were thinking of our children, knowing we were leaving this for them. So, that meant in some cases, starting from the foundation up.” Laurie laughs as we make our way up to one of the cottages. “Actually, we had to replace all the pipes and electrical, so I tell people we started from below the ground-up,” she laughs again. There’s no doubt she had her children in mind; each cottage has two bedrooms and two baths, a kitchen, and a living room that opens up to a broad deck. Visiting is easy and comfortable between cottages—they’re designed to bring friends and family together.
“We love Lake County,” she continues. “I’m just gobsmacked to be here. Friends come to our resort, and they notice how quiet it is. There’s a hum in the city that isn’t here. And I never get tired of sunsets here; there’s never the same one twice,” she smiles. “There’s a color you can only see here at sunset. My daughter calls it Lake County purple.”
We make our way to the other half of the property, the flower farm. We walk past where we’ll be having lunch—The Pavilion. A large pool and patio welcome swimmers and sunbathers. Just to the side, a large outdoor kitchen, living area, and tables make an easy transition between swimming and dinner. “We’ve enjoyed Thanksgivings and Christmases in this space,” Laurie reflects as we stop for a bottle of water before touring the flower farm. It’s easy to see how it would make the perfect space for a party. Soda Bay stretches out in front of the flower farm, drawing the eyes across miles of the Clear Lake Basin to the rugged slopes of Pine and Bartlett Mountains.
“I’ve learned a lot about commercially growing flowers,” Laurie continues. “For a market bouquet, it needs to have four components: a focal flower, a filler flower, greenery, and one unique flower, like one with a stem or saucer. So I try to grow epic flowers,” Laurie continues. “Ones you won’t find at Safeway. Like these marigolds.” She takes a second to show us a group of particularly large ones. “They need to be epic, big ass marigolds.
“You know, my granddaughters love flowers, too.” Laurie’s eyes twinkle as we stroll by a bed filled with Lisianthus. “Whenever they come, they get scissors and pick flowers to make their own bouquets.” And there’s no shortage of flowers for them to choose. Emerald green Bells of Ireland spread through one bed; brain-like Celosia adorns another. A massive canna lily stands apart, brilliant in the midday sun, all testament to Laurie’s extensive knowledge; she’s collected a library to keep herself up-to-date. So it’s easy to see where her granddaughters get their love for flowers.
It’s time for lunch, but there’s no hurry as we make our way back to The Pavilion. “We harvest our flowers every day at their peak,” Laurie says as we walk towards our table. “So if you get our flowers, you know they’ll be fresh within twenty-four hours. And our bouquets will last up to two weeks.”
A table is set for three with a lovely bouquet of Bell Haven’s flowers filling the center. A small sprig of Statice flowers holds each linen napkin together; every detail of the setting is thoughtfully placed. Laurie pulls out a platter of enchiladas and a side of beans and rice and sets them on the table next to a green salad. Together we enjoy the food and share stories about life, Lake County and our families. There’s no doubt that for Laurie Dorhring, everything she does centers around family, and Bell Haven Flower Farm is a reflection of that passion.