New York’s Meatpacking District is hosting the city’s first major flower show and festival in decades, in what organizers are planning to be an annual event.
L.E.A.F. Festival of Flowers will be held Saturday, June 12, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday, June 13, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at various locations throughout the Meatpacking District, spotlighting floral design via nearly 50 flower installations, a European-style flower market at Gansevoort Plaza, as well as partnerships with neighborhood retailers.
“It was always sort of sad to me that in a city like New York, where there is such a plethora of design talent, both established and new-gen, that there wasn’t an existing platform to celebrate all of that,” says Moira Breslin, the founder of L.E.A.F. “We want to highlight all of that great talent and artistry, and also interrupt New Yorkers by shocking them with nature.”
Breslin, who grew up in Ireland and went to school in London, has been working to get L.E.A.F. off the ground for more than five years. Inspired by the Chelsea Flower Show in London and other flower shows around the world, she announced L.E.A.F. in June 2019 with a few floral installations throughout Manhattan, like a large floral wreath around the Atlas statue in Rockefeller Center and installations at Astor Place and in front of the Flatiron Building. The inaugural show was supposed to take place in 2020, but it was pushed back due to the pandemic.
The numerous plazas and cobblestone streets of the Meatpacking District made it an ideal place for L.E.A.F. to flourish, so to speak.
“When this came about, it just seemed like a no brainer,” says Jeffrey LeFrancois, executive director of the Meatpacking BID. “The floral industry is a 3 billion dollar industry in the city of New York that was decimated, and this is a huge showing of their talent. The city rarely had to promote itself to really drive tourism, but everybody saw the bottom fall out on the tourism dollar, and now we have to figure out how to bring folks back.”
This year, the festival is free for everyone. Visitors can expect to find artistic floral installations by more than 100 florists at such places as in front of the Whitney Museum of American Art, in and around Chelsea Market, and at restaurants and bars like Pastis and Dante.
For a more hands-on floral experience, the FlowerSchool New York is offering a series of 30-minute workshops starting at 10 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday for $35 per person. (Register online at flowerschoolny.com.) To wrap up the workshops, master floral designer Oscar Mora will be giving a large-scale installation demo at 3 p.m. on Sunday, June 13. Everyone who registers will also receive a complimentary Oscar Mora signature flower puzzle.
If you’ve been daydreaming about visiting Amsterdam this summer, you can get your fix at the European-style flower market that will take over Gansevoort Plaza on both days of the festival. In consideration of how hard the flower industry was hit by the pandemic, the 20 florists with stalls in the flower market won’t have to pay any fees to participate.
“Most of the industry is made up of small businesses; there are farmers, growers, wholesalers, designers, and freelancers, and the ripple effects throughout our industry were seismic,” says Kelsea Olivia, founder and owner of East Olivia, a creative agency and floral designer. “Flower farms basically had to bulldoze down and get rid of this harvest of flowers that they couldn’t sell. We were heading into a half-a-million-dollar month in March 2020, and then everything overnight just stopped.”
East Olivia will have a double rainbow–themed installation in Gansevoort Plaza to celebrate Pride month in partnership with Aerie, a floral Airstream in partnership with Stella Artois, as well as additional installations in Chelsea Market and department store Neighborhood Goods.
Specials at neighborhood businesses include a complimentary bouquet of roses at the designer clothing store Theory, a bouquet giveaway at Warby Parker with any sunglasses purchase, and L.E.A.F.-inspired cocktail specials at the Standard hotel, to name a few.
To keep the festival as sustainable as possible, L.E.A.F. is partnering with the Lower East Side Ecology Center to compost all the flowers (85 percent of the installations will be real flowers). Structures built for this year’s event will be saved for reuse.
Although this year’s festival promises to be impressive, Breslin views it as the launchpad for a much larger annual event.
“The idea is that this will hopefully be an annual event to kick off summer for New Yorkers and it will evolve into a ticketed model where there’ll be more master classes and programming, and a competition element for the designers,” says Breslin. “This year really is about giving the city something lovely to look at and giving the florists a platform to show off their talents.”
How to get there
Located on Manhattan’s west side, the Meatpacking District stretches east to west from Ninth Avenue to the West Side Highway between Gansevoort Street up to 17th Street. The closest subway is the A/C/E/L trains at 14th Street and Eighth Avenue.