Designer Olivia Stutz shares her tips for navigating the flourishing world of flower markets—from the best season to buy blooms to the prime time to start shopping.
Photos by Christian Torres.
There’s a stretch of Chelsea, Manhattan that rewards you for visiting well before you usually start snoozing your alarm. No, not with New Orleans-style cold brew or a killer 90s-themed spin class, but with a sea of exotic stems and eye-catching perennials. For designers and florists alike, the Flower Market is an urban Eden where you can source practically any seasonal bloom imaginable. The best part: you don’t have to be a professional to make the most of the daily assortment (or take advantage of the aromatic air). And for those of you not in the New York City area, there are flower markets scattered across the country for your visiting pleasure.
To get the scoop on navigating one of New York City’s most flourishing areas, we spoke with Homepolish designer and frequent flower market visitor Olivia Stutz. Prepare to become a morning person.
Let’s start at the beginning: give us a run down of how the Flower Market works.
The Flower Market opens at 5 am and stores usually close around noon, so it’s an early bird community! The slowest season is summer and the busiest season is around the holidays, so plan accordingly. You can find the majority of shops between 6th and 7th Avenue on 28th Street. Each store has its own little niche—from shops that only sell fake flowers or vases to shops that only sell orchids and trees. The list goes on. The only way to truly understand the Flower Market is to walk through it and pop in to each store. You will soon figure out that each store really does have its own speciality, and that is what’s so special about this place.
What are you keeping an eye out for when you visit the Flower Market?
It really depends on what I am feeling that week or what my clients are looking for. Sometimes my clients ask for flowers and trees that will last a while, so I’ll get them orchids, fig trees, and succulents. When I am buying for myself or sourcing for an event or photoshoot, I gravitate towards unique and rare flowers from Dutch Flower Line. I typically opt for bright colors and unique textures, but I also stick to the basics: peonies, hydrangeas, white tulips—you can always count on those varieties to photograph well! One thing I always know before I head to the Flower Market is what vase I’m using. In order for your arrangement to work, you have to know what kind of vase you’re working with.
Any general tips to keep in mind about shopping for flowers?
Some people buy for longevity, some people buy for events. I usually stick to the flowers I know will look good, but that all comes with experimenting and practicing, so my advice would be to get out there and pick one new flower each week, and see which ones you gravitate towards. At the end of the day, flowers are supposed to make you happy. If they aren’t doing that for you, move onto the next one.
You mentioned the Flower Market opens at 5 am. Is that the best time to go?
If you want to pick from the best selection, you should plan to arrive around 5:30 am. I usually find that getting to the market around 7 am is fine for me. Sometimes they do run out of certain flowers, so if you are pining for a specific one, you can order in advance and the shops can usually work to accommodate that request.
How do you balance pricier flowers with inexpensive ones?
Typically, if I spot a favorite flower that I haven’t seen in a long time or is very seasonal, I usually hop at the chance to purchase it, regardless of the price. For example, when I see that Lily of the Valley is available just a few weeks into spring, I get one and put it in a small vase next to my bed because the smell is so fragrant and brings me back to such good memories. There are certain flowers you can justify spending a little more on when you know they will make you happy! But most of the time, I stick to what’s in season because the price is lower and you know they are fresh.
Could you share any tips for when it’s best to buy specific flowers in terms of seasonality?
Spring tends to be the best for floral shopping, as there is so much color and choices, but I’ve listed some standouts from each season below.
Fall: Berries, calla lilies, textural branches, eucalyptus, and pods
Winter: Roses, narcissus, amaryllis, and buttercups
Spring: Anemones, peonies, and sweet pea
Summer: Hydrangeas, sunflowers, dahlias, and freesia
Year-round: Orchids and tropical cuts
What have you noticed in terms of big trends in the market at the moment?
There is a huge trend in tropical-themed flower arrangements. Brands like Ovando, Brrch Floral, and Metaflora NYC all have businesses and accounts dedicated to this carribean flower trend, featuring banana leafs, wild protea, fun colored orchid leaves, and anthurium.
Artificially dyed baby’s breath and orchids in a range of pastel hues, along with glossy anthuriums, birds of paradise, and hybrid tea roses are populating the new wave of 1980s-inflected arrangements cropping up in New York at the moment.
Ready to watch your home blossom? Sign up for Homepolish today.