When One Million Flowers Came to the Meatpacking District
·5 min read
On a cloudy weekend in mid-June, New York’s Meatpacking District was in full bloom. Bouquets of hydrangeas by McQueen flowers were handed out at Pastis. The Standard served cocktails with edible petals. And over on a cobblestoned corner of Little West 12 Street, in the newly-designated Gansevoort Plaza, a rainbow arch of roses acted as an ethereal (and, well, Instagrammable) entry way into a bountiful bazaar of floral stands, displays, and carts. “It’s all so beautiful,” remarked one passerby to her companion. “What is this all for?”
London has the Royal Chelsea Flower Show, Amsterdam the Tulip Festival, Hong Kong, its annual expo. And now, New York has L.E.A.F, a contemporary flower show whose inaugural weekend saw 100 florists cover the city in over one million blooms.
Its debut came at a time of renewal for the city. Two weeks before, many of New York’s pandemic-era restrictions were lifted. Restaurants bustled with throngs of wine-addled patrons, the Metropolitan Museum of Art had lines around the block, and on the Lower East Side, you could finally go dancing beneath a disco ball again. Two days later, Governor Cuomo would announce that the state reached a 70 percent adult vaccination rate. “That means we can return to life as we know it,” he wrote on Twitter.
Flowers were a poignant way to mark the dawn of a post-pandemic New York. “In the face of social disharmony, isolation from loved ones and human loss, florals have been a constant healing presence for so many,” florist Elizabeth Lauriello of Van Vliet New York mused. Her L.E.A.F. installation, done in collaboration with PSL Originals, featured a globe composed of green, teal, and blue moss. At the base was an assortment of flowers from around the world meant to signify global healing: there were North American peonies, South American roses, Asian delphiniums, European tulips, African garden roses, and Australian mink ice protea.
During the peak of the pandemic, as New York’s healthcare system dangerously neared collapse, Lewis Miller crafted surprise flower installations outside of hospitals overnight. At L.E.A.F. he reprised his guerrilla-style flower flashes, adorning street signs with peonies, daisies, carnations, and lilies. He collaborated with Los Angeles-based artist Scott Froschauer to create stop, yield, and highway signs with custom sayings—”Relax, U R OK,” read one. “My main goal has always been to elicit a powerful and emotional response with flowers,” Miller tells Vogue. “We chose each sign and their message very thoughtfully. Post-pandemic, everyone wants to know that we are going to be OK and that there is life and love and growth to be had in the future.”
That weekend, as the city's denizens milled around the petal-packed streets, their smiles visible for the first time in 18 months, everything did feel OK. It was the flowers. It was the temperate June weather. It was the crowds, unafraid of mingling outdoors, snapping iPhone pictures of loved ones. It was the energy of finally, finally having the end in the sight. The beauty was immersive, even beyond the blooms.