jo ann manolis photography

Welcome to the blog of Jo Ann Manolis Photography! I’m a wedding, portrait, and fine art photographer based in Santa Cruz, CA. I’ve created this blog as a means of sharing my work and life with my clients, family, and friends. I’ll be updating it regularly with my latest work, thoughts and ideas regarding photography and art, and links to many fabulous artists and vendors. So, take a look around, enjoy, and leave me a message here if you’re inspired. I can also be reached directly by e-mail via my website:, or by phone at: (831)359-7948. Thanks for stopping by!


We had lilac bushes in our yard where I grew up in Ohio. They arrived in May, an enormous sea of purple and white. The first true sign of summer. They smelled like heaven. My mother would cut some off and wrap the stems in wet paper towels, then aluminum foil and send me on my way to school. My teachers always loved them. Especially Ms. Evans, my Kindergarten teacher. She loved them so much that mom kept sending me to school with more for her. She would put them in an old dusty vase, smile, and pat me on the head. Ms. Evans wasn’t a particularly kind teacher. She put poor Michael H. in a cardboard box and called it his “office”. Apparently, he wasn’t being attentive enough. He was supposed to sit in his “office” all day long where he couldn’t see a thing. Sounds like a great way to encourage attentiveness, amongst other things…

I shudder at the thought of my baby having a Ms. Evans. Pat says that things are different these days, that Ms. Evans wouldn’t last a day in school (let alone Kindergarten) today. All I know is that I have two memories of Kindergarten…lilacs and Michael H’s cardboard box.

The lilac memories are lovely ones, though. I can still picture my mom in the warm foggy morning air, cutting them for my teachers. It meant that school would soon be over and that she would be all mine for three whole months. I would proudly step onto the school bus with the fragrance of heaven encircling me.

A few months ago I stopped into Susi’s Flowers to grab some fresh cut flowers for a dear friend who was in the hospital. I couldn’t believe my nose…lilacs. You don’t normally see them in California, not like the ones in the Midwest anyway. They’re smaller, less intense, less amazing here. Susi said that in order to grow good lilacs, a cold snap is needed. That would explain the Ohio part. She said that hers are from a very old bush, that the newer bushes just aren’t the same. I believe her, I hadn’t seen or smelled a decent lilac since I moved to California almost 15 years ago…until that day.

I drove to the hospital with the bouquet on the passengers seat and a flood of memories in my head. I traveled back to Kindergarten and thought about the full circle that I’ve come. Our baby starts Kindergarten this fall. I’m not quite sure where the years have gone.

I went back to Susi’s the other day for some gorgeous cut flowers of my own. No lilacs, though (the season is over here in Santa Cruz). It’s a gorgeous shop, located in Rancho Del Mar in Aptos, a few doors down from Safeway. Do stop by and check it out the next time you’re looking for unbelievably beautiful flowers. She does weddings and events as well and by the looks of what was being created in the shop when I stopped in, her arrangements are some of the most stunning I’ve ever seen. Not to mention that Susi and the other woman working there were amazingly sweet and helpful. I know that I’ll be stopping by again soon…and telling my brides about her as well.

Oh, and guess what was in full bloom on our recent trip to the Sierras ?


they smelled like heaven…


4 responses to “Lilacs

  1. kc June 29, 2009 at 9:49 pm

    i love this story. and did you know i used to work for susi? we were just married and she ended up doing some of my wedding flowers. i was so inspired by what she did i ended up working for her in hopes of learnig great things. she is the best there is in this town. i would vouch for her any day.

  2. joannmanolisphotography June 29, 2009 at 9:55 pm

    wow…had no idea! so cool. miss you, wanna ride soon? xxoo

  3. Nicole July 15, 2009 at 1:49 pm

    In addition to being a wonderful photographer, you are a wonderful story teller!

    • joannmanolisphotography July 16, 2009 at 10:38 pm

      Look who’s talking! I felt like I was there with you on that late night shift you worked at the hospital a few months ago. Not sure how helpful I would’ve been, aside from helping you with your in & out meal! YOU have a serious way with words! Loving your blog so much…

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