Inspirations Bloom – Remembering Fran Conoley

by on October 22, 2018 · 2 comments

in Ocean Beach

Fran’s Succulents and Aloe Vera plants and Geraniums. Photos by Kathy Blavatt

How Does My Garden Grow?

By Kathy Blavatt

As I look upon my garden there are a few plants I can always count on that look good. These are strong and more beautiful as they age, stretching and branching out, providing shade for young sprouts, and blooming in full glory with a scent that attracts the pollinators who dance among her blossoms.

Fran Conoley

My friend Fran Conoley Conley, like her plants, was the standout in the garden. The sprouts she planted over decades had been passed around to those with green thumbs and grown in many gardens. I was one of the lucky ones to benefit from her gifts of posies.

Just recently after pruning a plant given to me by Fran, I had told to my husband how I had missed visiting with her and seeing her smiling face.  Then soon after, her smiling face was looking up at me in the “Life Tribute” section of the paper.

On August 9, 2018, at age 99, Frances (Fran) Conoley died.

The first paragraph appellee described many of the fine qualities of Fran. She enjoyed life with boundless energy, she was full of generosity, had a sense of curiosity, had an appreciation for beauty, and had a passion for living things, be they human, flowers or domesticated pet.

If more people could have Fran’s amazing qualities and kindness maybe the world would be in a better state.

Fran was a longtime member of the Point Loma Garden Club, and was the president in 1975-1976. She was a strong advocate in establishing Collier Park and the Point Loma Native Reserve. Fran and other Point Loma Garden Club members helped plant, weed, and take care of the park for years.

Fran’s love for plants was contagious. I was one of the lucky ones to be touched by this woman enthusiasm through her teachings and kindness. Her classroom was her garden, which she invited me into as a child.

Her orchid collection amazed me. Her knowledge of ever plant and tree in her garden was astounding.

Fran had hooked me on plants. She handed me aloe vera and told me to use it if I had burn or sunburn. She handed me several sprigs of scented geraniums with the most wonderful aroma.  Decades later generations of these plants still grace my yard. These lavender budded beauties have been shared and planted by dozens of friends and neighbors.

Trail in Point Loma Native Plant Reserve

Way before the water shortages, Fran propagated succulents. These hearty plants, some that are still fairly rare, thrive in my garden today.

Besides the gardening, Fran loved flower arranging and won numerous prizes for her arrangements. I always looked forward to seeing her creative arrangements in the “Art Alive” exhibit at the San Diego Museum of Art in Balboa Park, where she won many awards.

When I was in sixth grade, Fran asked if I would like to enter a local flower arranging contests that had a “kids” category. She gave me some oasis (floral foam), taught me some basics of floral arranging, and let me cut flowers from her garden. The theme of the show was ocean inspired arrangements, which was perfect for me since I had a collection of beautiful shells. I filled my favorite conch with a colorful floral design and actually won.

The spark Fran had set off in me, later inspired me to work for the florist “Flowers from Roxanne” on Rosecrans in Point Loma. This then lead me to arranging my own flowers for my wedding at “Villa Surf” overlooking Garbage Beach at Sunset Cliffs. After that, I went on to own a flower arranging business, where I specialized weddings, parties, and special events. This included creating arrangements for Neal Diamond, Elton Jon, and Frank Sinatra, when they were in concert in San Diego at the Sports Arena.

Fran’s succulents

Besides being a mentor, Fran would leave plants for me in the back alley behind my parent’s house. A large part of my family’s home garden was planted with Fran’s plants.

A couple years ago, there were piles of baskets, driftwood, and floral arranging supplies piled up against Fran’s wall in the alley. Fran’s son told these were being donated and some of it thrown away. He let me pick though it and take some home.

At home I looked through Fran’s collection of twisted driftwood, lovely baskets and assorted knickknacks.

To me these were treasures that Fran had collected over her lifetime. She had instilled in me that beautiful pieces of driftwood, or baskets, could be inspirational additions in making a beautiful creative design incorporating flowers and plants.

My friend Fran’s spirit is still with me, as I look around my garden at the plants she gave me. She bestowed to me the gift of bringing beauty through nature into the world.

[Editordude: with apologies, we’ve changed the spelling of Fran’s last name; we originally spelled it as “Conley”; her correct spelling is “Conoley”. It’s too late to change the name in the headline.]

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Molly October 24, 2018 at 7:24 pm

Nicely done, Kathy. Now we all know a little about Fran Conoley.


ZZ October 25, 2018 at 1:58 pm

I have that same succulent with the bright orange bell-shape flowers too! It is a low water winner.

I am happy to see her good work memorialized here, thank you.


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