inBloom brings butterflies, nature-themed fun to Flower Hill

Flower Hill Promenade has been transformed for inBloom, a month-long series of events and activities to bring the community together at the Del Mar lifestyle center. Through May 28, inBloom celebrates flowers and nature with unique offerings such as a butterfly exhibit, floral fashion shows, movie nights on Fridays, craft workshops, and kids activities like butterfly yoga, make and take crafts and imaginative playhouses to explore.

“Our vision for inBloom is to provide new and memorable ways to eat, shop, learn and connect with one another while supporting some of our city’s most remarkable businesses and entrepreneurs,” said Flower Hill owner Jeffrey Essakow.

Under the floral umbrellas at Flower Hill.
Under the floral umbrellas at Flower Hill.

Essakow’s company Protea Properties has placed a focus on purchasing real estate properties in high profile areas and transforming them from “lemons to lemonade” — in addition to the transformation of Flower Hill, his company was recently selected to redevelop Seaport Village. Essakow purchased Flower Hill 15 years ago with the sole purpose of renovating the somewhat tired center built in the 1970s and giving it new life.

The first step was demolishing the UltraStar movie theater and replacing it with Whole Foods. The second step was renovating the rest of the center, reinvigorating the landscaping and bringing actual flowers back to Flower Hill.

“Up until a couple years ago you could walk around the center and not see too many flowers,” Essakow said.

The transformation of Flower Hill is a necessity, Essakow said, as the entire retail and shopping industry is changing due to the increase in online shopping.

“The trend is creating experiences at shopping centers — it’s no longer customer service, it’s about customer experience,” Essakow said. “We can’t as a shopping center and retailers compete with the Amazons of the world, we’ve got to create things that they can’t do. Our goal is to figure out ways to get customers to come here because they want to come here not because they have to come here…It’s all about capturing the hearts of our customers, bringing people here because it’s just cool to hang out at Flower Hill.”

The workshop space at Flower Hill.
The workshop space at Flower Hill.

inBloom has been in the works for the last two years through the planning efforts of Essakow, R&R Enterprises’ Siena and Leslie Randell, longtime manager Rose Jabin and marketing director Irina Rachow, who has been a 25-year tenant at Flower Hill with Fairen Del.

Sienna Randell said the idea of inBloom was to stretch the event out over the entire month so everyone has a chance to get to see or experience some part of it.

The free Butterfly Encounter featuring hundreds of butterflies flying in a custom-built butterfly house will be open at the center through July. The exhibit will also serve as a great educational component from the community as an estimated 1,000 children will walk through the butterfly house as part of school field trips. In addition to the butterflies, a bird sanctuary was also brought in and placed near the expanded playground by Gepetto’s Toys.

Flower Hill has brought in top landscaping and gardening experts to help adorn the center, including Pat Hammer, former director of operations at the San Diego Botanic Garden and local designers from BrightView Landscape. Charles Meier, a creative director for Paradiso Parade Floats whose work has rolled in the Rose Parade has brought in whimsical butterflies and flowers that give parts of the center a fantasyland-type feel.

One-hundred-year-old olive trees hand-sculpted in the Bonzai method have been planted in the plaza by Starbucks and Yogurtland, and flower vignettes fill every empty corner and wall in the center, from plantings stuffed into jeans near clothing stores Van de Vort and Lone Flag, and an antique bathtub full of flowers near Between the Sheets. Succulents have been meticulously placed in flower boxes and beds and a centerpiece is the stunning rainbow of flower umbrellas that float above the center courtyard, where people can gather on artificial turf below. Under the umbrellas is also where the fashion shows and movie nights will be held.

A succulent display at Flower Hill.
A succulent display at Flower Hill.

A fun element of inBloom is the Playhouse Palooza. Local builders and architects were tapped to design unique playhouses for children to explore at the center---the playhouses will be auctioned off to the builders’ charity of choice in July. Charities that will benefit Warrior to Soulmate, Merlin’s Magic Wand children’s foundation, Rady Children’s Hospital, Girl Scouts of America and the Challenged Athletes Foundation.

“Transformation,” the playhouse by McCarthy Building Companies and Safdie Rabines Architects positioned near Starbucks, resembles a cocoon inspired by a butterfly’s metamorphosis. PCL Construction, and Merlin Entertainments created a Legoland-inspired Lego playhouse for kids to check out close to Gepetto’s Toys.

A workshop space has been set aside like a Pinterest board come to life where people will take advantage of a month-long calendar of hands-on workshops such as driftwood succulents with Infinite Succulents, gardening with TV personality Shirley Bovshow, herb and edible gardening with Urban Plantations, plant-infused mixology and herb-infused tea brewing.

A full calendar of events can be found at