The New York Flower District can be intimidating... and this is coming from a regular! Here are a few tips to battle to grit and grime and allow you to be on your way to the best floral purchase of your life!
Bring a Basket
As someone who enjoys walking the New York City streets, I am a big fan of my wicker grocery cart for fear of turning into the Hunchback of Notre Dame. Flowers can be bulky and cumbersome and it provides a great sense of relief if you don't have to carry bouquets of flowers while sifting your way through the throngs of petals and stems.
The New York Flower District opens at the blooming hour of 5:30 am, where you will be elbowing your way between florists and through thorns and thistles. To get the freshest flowers, I suggest you arrive at the crack of dawn, but at the more sophisticated hour of 8:00/9:00. There will still be flowers left over and if you’re not a high profile florist, who wants to learn more about blooms and what is in season, arriving later will give you the chance to speak to the salesmen.
Stop to grab some bubble tea!
One of my favorite places to stop on route to the Flower District is Vivi’s Bubble Tea. The burst of sugar and tapioca pearls give me just the right amount of vitality to combat any thorns along the way!
Browse before you commit
It is important to look at the entire landscape rather than settling for the first great find. Walk through the various shops to see what other stores are offering, ask for prices and compare the freshness of the flowers. By taking a look at all your options, you will be able to be a wiser shopper.
Coming from an un-spontaneous Type A’er (now I made myself sound grossly boring…) I like to plan out my day in order to remain efficient. One of my biggest piece of advice is, if you have time, visit the flower market a day or two before you plan to make your purchases and talk to the salesmen. You may learn that some flowers are best bought day of the event, while others a few days prior. You’ll be able to see what varieties and colors are in bloom, allowing your creative juices to flow. If you’re sweet enough, the salesmen may even take next day orders for you, sharing their secrets of which blooms they are expecting to arrive.
Wear comfortable shoes and carry a hand-free bag
Nothing screams more than ‘get me the hell out of here’ than feeling like a bag lady and wearing sky-high heels. Wear appropriate footwear (I opt for sneakers – the farmers market is not the cleanest street in the city) and carry a cross-body bag that way your hands are free to do all the searching.
It is important to ask a lot of questions and make friends with the salesmen. They know what is the most fresh and fragrant and can help you with conceptualizing bouquets and themes. I am the first to admit that sometimes they can be intimidating, but don’t be afraid to ask them questions!
For those of you that know me really well, negotiating is certainly not my forte. I ignorantly tend to succumb to any price the cunning salesman shouts out. But no, at the Flower District, I am no fool, and it is important that you aren’t one too. If you’re buying a lot at a particular store, ask for a discount in price. Speak to the salesmen at the beginning of your shop regarding budget because they will help steer you in the proper direction. International flowers versus local varieties tend to be more expensive and sometimes you can’t tell the difference between which tulips were flown from the Holland or which ones were grown in Hudson Valley. Ask lots of questions and be prepared to bargain!
Evade the extravagant
The flower stalls that look the most fancy are definitely the most expensive. Unless you want to purchase an already arranged bouquet, go to the florists who are a little more grittier (we’re speaking out flowers, here, nothing is gritty) and you’re wallet with thank you.
When thinking about your purchases, think in color codes. The flowers are displayed not only by breed, but by color as well. An all-white arraignment is much more interesting with different textures – mix larger flowers with smaller buds and with ones who have different petal textures.
Sending four-leaf clovers your way for your next NYC Flower District venture!