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?”

“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.
“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.
Photographed by Caroline Tompkins

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.

<cite class="credit">Photographed by Caroline Tompkins</cite>
Photographed by Caroline Tompkins
<cite class="credit">Photographed by Caroline Tompkins</cite>
Photographed by Caroline Tompkins

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.

<cite class="credit">Photographed by Caroline Tompkins</cite>
Photographed by Caroline Tompkins
<cite class="credit">Photographed by Caroline Tompkins</cite>
Photographed by Caroline Tompkins
<cite class="credit">Photographed by Caroline Tompkins</cite>
Photographed by Caroline Tompkins
<cite class="credit">Photographed by Caroline Tompkins</cite>
Photographed by Caroline Tompkins

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.”

Hawwaa Ibrahim.
Hawwaa Ibrahim.
Photographed by Caroline Tompkins

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.

The pink-bloomed back of &#x00201c;Dream,&#x00201d; one of Lewis Miller and Scott Froschauer&#x002019;s floral installations. Miller used Dr. Fleming and Sara Bernhardt peonies, Sara Bernhardt peonies, garden roses, carnations, derby daisies, hydrangeas, and blooming rhododendrons.
The pink-bloomed back of “Dream,” one of Lewis Miller and Scott Froschauer’s floral installations. Miller used Dr. Fleming and Sara Bernhardt peonies, Sara Bernhardt peonies, garden roses, carnations, derby daisies, hydrangeas, and blooming rhododendrons.
Photographed by Caroline Tompkins
Observers take pictures outside Theresa Rivera Design&#x002019;s installation, &#x00201c;The Rainbow Colonnade.&#x00201d; It featured anthurium, amranthus, eremusus, roses, lilies, orchids, ginger, and natural landscape elements.
Observers take pictures outside Theresa Rivera Design’s installation, “The Rainbow Colonnade.” It featured anthurium, amranthus, eremusus, roses, lilies, orchids, ginger, and natural landscape elements.
Photographed by Caroline Tompkins
Elizabeth Williams, Nia Mozee, and Jerrnezza Gregory pose at Simply Nia Design&#x002019;s flower stall.
Elizabeth Williams, Nia Mozee, and Jerrnezza Gregory pose at Simply Nia Design’s flower stall.
Photographed by Caroline Tompkins
At L.E.A.F, you could shop for bouquets and take arranging classes.
At L.E.A.F, you could shop for bouquets and take arranging classes.
Photographed by Caroline Tompkins
A woman poses in front of an Herm&#xe8;s flower cart by Renny &amp; Reed. Many Meatpacking businesses, from Diane von Furstenburg to The Gansevoort Hotel, participated in L.E.A.F.
A woman poses in front of an Hermès flower cart by Renny & Reed. Many Meatpacking businesses, from Diane von Furstenburg to The Gansevoort Hotel, participated in L.E.A.F.
Photographed by Caroline Tompkins
Valentine Kim poses with a large leaf.
Valentine Kim poses with a large leaf.
Photographed by Caroline Tompkins
L.E.A.F. featured over one million flowers&#x002014;including these daisies.
L.E.A.F. featured over one million flowers—including these daisies.
Photographed by Caroline Tompkins
Bella Janssens.
Bella Janssens.
Photographed by Caroline Tompkins
Roberto Monticello, the Mayor of Meatpacking.
Roberto Monticello, the Mayor of Meatpacking.
Photographed by Caroline Tompkins
Jasvinder Dhatt.
Jasvinder Dhatt.
Photographed by Caroline Tompkins
Installations featured flowers from around the world.
Installations featured flowers from around the world.
Photographed by Caroline Tompkins
Tanya Yelena.
Tanya Yelena.
Photographed by Caroline Tompkins
Every dog has his Instagram&#x002014;this time, in front of &#x00201c;Flower Child,&#x00201d; a display by Popup Florist made of pincushions, parrot tulips, peonies, and carnations.
Every dog has his Instagram—this time, in front of “Flower Child,” a display by Popup Florist made of pincushions, parrot tulips, peonies, and carnations.
Photographed by Caroline Tompkins
Dogs Dre and Houston in front of &#x00201c;California hearts New York,&#x00201d; an installation by Pigsty &amp; Flowers by Ford.
Dogs Dre and Houston in front of “California hearts New York,” an installation by Pigsty & Flowers by Ford.
Photographed by Caroline Tompkins
Marquez Woods.
Marquez Woods.
Photographed by Caroline Tompkins
<cite class="credit">Photographed by Caroline Tompkins</cite>
Photographed by Caroline Tompkins
Katrina Robinson, Churchill Stone, Charlemagne Stone (wearing a flower crown by Larkspur Botanicals.)
Katrina Robinson, Churchill Stone, Charlemagne Stone (wearing a flower crown by Larkspur Botanicals.)
Photographed by Caroline Tompkins
<cite class="credit">Photographed by Caroline Tompkins</cite>
Photographed by Caroline Tompkins
Vanessa and Sydney Bowke.
Vanessa and Sydney Bowke.
Photographed by Caroline Tompkins
Halons Gezalia.
Halons Gezalia.
Photographed by Caroline Tompkins
Plant Passenger tricked out a 1980s Mercedes for the occasion.
Plant Passenger tricked out a 1980s Mercedes for the occasion.
Photographed by Caroline Tompkins
Brittany Holloway-Brown and Jamala Johns in front of &#x00201c;Illuminating Hope,&#x00201d; an installation by Floratorium, Pic and Petal and Prism Harvest. The group chose Ultimate Grey and Illuminating Yellow, Pantone&#x002019;s 2021 colors of the year, for their grand arrangement. &#x00201c;During this year we saw businesses shut down, people losing their jobs, ambulances rushing people left and right. Basically, an ultimate grey cloud that covered the entire city and the world. Then after the sacrifice and hard work of our essential workers; a community that stood strong supporting each other served as a shining light in the darkest corners. It was then when we saw our city illuminating again,&#x00201d; they told Vogue.
Brittany Holloway-Brown and Jamala Johns in front of “Illuminating Hope,” an installation by Floratorium, Pic and Petal and Prism Harvest. The group chose Ultimate Grey and Illuminating Yellow, Pantone’s 2021 colors of the year, for their grand arrangement. “During this year we saw businesses shut down, people losing their jobs, ambulances rushing people left and right. Basically, an ultimate grey cloud that covered the entire city and the world. Then after the sacrifice and hard work of our essential workers; a community that stood strong supporting each other served as a shining light in the darkest corners. It was then when we saw our city illuminating again,” they told Vogue.
Photographed by Caroline Tompkins
Jessica Sturchio at the Bloomeffects Market stall.
Jessica Sturchio at the Bloomeffects Market stall.
Photographed by Caroline Tompkins
Unsurprisingly, L.E.A.F was immensely popular for social media content.
Unsurprisingly, L.E.A.F was immensely popular for social media content.
Photographed by Caroline Tompkins
A woman poses in front of East Olivia&#x002019;s Rainbow Arch for Aerie.
A woman poses in front of East Olivia’s Rainbow Arch for Aerie.
Photographed by Caroline Tompkins
Charlotte Turner.
Charlotte Turner.
Photographed by Caroline Tompkins

Originally Appeared on Vogue