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How to Navigate the NYC Flower Market

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How to Navigate the NYC Flower Market

April 22, 2018

Does the thought of a trip to the flower market make your palms sweat? Maybe I’m projecting, but I think big city flower markets can be unnerving for most people: The crowds. The hustle. The options.

The first few times I went to the New York City Flower Market on 28th Street, I left feeling as though I’d been through the wringer. I also felt like I had more flowers than I knew what to do with and less money remaining in my wallet than was healthy. But these days, I feel like I have a sufficient number of visits under my belt to offer a tip or two.

Welcome to Throwback Sundays: Readers’ Favorite Posts from the Past

Consider this the amateur’s guide to navigating New York’s flower market, and use it as excuse to make a trip (or two) to the market for yourself.

Photography by Rebecca Baust.

1. Plan ahead.

Above: I give this tip cautiously: Too much planning and you’ll find yourself devastated because no one had precisely the shade of coral ranunculus you were after; too little planning and you’ll go in asking for holly berries in the middle of June and leave with 10 tons of flowers you didn’t intend to purchase.

Keep in mind the budget you’re working with and your color palette, and then let the flowers that are available be your guide.

2. Arrive early.

Above: The market opens at 5:30 a.m. and individual shops begin to close up around 10:30 a.m.

If you’re not a professional florist, you can likely enjoy your breakfast after the sun has risen and get there closer to 8 a.m. and still find a healthy selection.

3. Browse first, buy later.

Above: Don’t hesitate to browse from shop to shop until you find what you’re looking for.

I see something that I like and I want to snatch it up. This isn’t entirely wrongheaded—there are only so many dainty bundles of tallow berries to be had–but it might also mean you don’t walk away with the best deal.

4. Buy in bulk.

Above: Flowers at the market come in bundles. If you want just a stem of something, head to your local florist instead.

6. Use the shelves.

Above: Most shops in the market have metal shelves where shoppers can stash the flowers they’d like to purchase. Don’t hesitate to put up your unwieldy bundles while you shop. Your fellow shoppers will thank you.

7. Ask questions.

Above: The first few times I went to the market, I was too shy. Don’t hesitate to ask a sales associate questions about bloom time, price, and inventory.

8. Check for freshness.

Above: Touch and smell the merchandise to make sure it’s fresh.

9. Bring cash.

Above: Not all shops accept credit cards, so make it easy on yourself and bring plenty of cash to make your purchases.

10. Make friends with cats.

Above: Just another well-fed NYC feline.

11. Wear comfortable clothes.

Above: Carry a practical bag: You’ll want to have your hands free for toting home parcels.

12. Care for flowers.

Above: What to do after you’re home? So glad you asked. Flowers at the market come unprocessed, so you’ll have to remove excess leaves and thorns and give a fresh cut to the stems.

13. Shop seasonal.

Above: In winter, you’ll find privet berries, tallow berries, and seeded eucalyptus. In spring, expect to see tulips and flowering branches.

Know your flowers. Do some homework before you head to the shops: See our curated guides to our favorite flowers at Perennials 101 and Annuals 101, and keep an eye out for these florists’ market favorites:

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