Field Trip to the Flower Market!

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Come along with me to the San Francisco flower market, also known as “Flower Heaven!” Every time I post a photo from this magical place, I get so many “likes” that I realize everybody wants to see more of the flower market! So here’s your chance to experience a bit of what our flower-buying excursions look like.

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And the best part: you don’t even have to get up at 3 a.m. for the adventure!

Here we are, on the road in the pitch black night. It’s 3:50 a.m. and we have a long drive ahead of us to the market.

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 I can’t imagine myself willingly getting up this early for ANY other reason, but for a field trip to Flower Heaven, oh, yes, please!

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After a 2-hour drive, we’re almost to San Francisco and as we cross the magnificent Bay Bridge before dawn, no matter how sleep-deprived I am, my excitement level is soaring and the usual happy little butterflies start flitting around my insides. I’ve come to this glorious place thousands of times over the last 40+ years, and the excitement, the challenge, and the fun of this beautiful adventure never gets old.

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It’s somewhere between 5:30 and 6:00 a.m. when we show our passes and drive into the long parking lot that’s lined with vendor shops on both sides. Since the market opens on Wednesdays and Fridays at 1:30 a.m., we are actually arriving very late for wholesale buyers, but over the years I’ve learned to place orders for the most important flowers I need, so I’m not too anxious about not finding exactly what I’m looking for. 

We park, gather up our lists and swatches, and then we step into the magical presence of the flowers. 

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The sights and mingled scents are dazzling, overwhelming — as we gaze on patchwork carpets of wonderful, colorful flowers in every imaginable variety, stretched out, literally, as far as the eye can see. And all in stunning contrast to the dingy, gray, industrial concrete and steel exteriors that give no hint of the glorious treasures hiding just inside.

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         The seasons come and go — and the flowers and fruits here at the market change with them; even from week to week, the varieties and offerings change. I never need a calendar to tell me what season it is, because of the flowers on display.

It’s summer now, and so there are dahlias…

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hydrangeas…

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 festively-colored zinnias and spicy-scented stock, to name only a few of the flowers we see everywhere.

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Wooden crates full of tall, exotic orchids line the sidewalk… 

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        and sometimes we see bright displays of seasonal fruits and vegetables, as well.

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As we go from shop to shop, exploring, searching, evaluating, scrutinizing every flower for freshness and potential design use, we are completely lost in another world, under the spell of the flowers. 

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Trying to keep track of our well-calculated budget as best we can with all the temptations surrounding us, we make our flower choices and pile our  carefully-chosen fragile beauties on the counters of the vendor booths, to be counted, wrapped and paid for. Here, you see some of the bins behind the counters, where “Special Order” flowers are set aside for pickup:

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 Nothing compares to an overload of fabulous, lucious peonies to get our creative juices flowing!

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As my wedding work has brought me to this heavenly place for over forty years, I have been blessed to work with vendors who have become special friends. Many have been there as long as I have, on the other side of the counter, working so hard to provide extravagantly beautiful fresh flowers to make any floral designer’s dreams come true.

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          My  market friends look at my swatches and make suggestions when I don’t know exactly what flowers will fill my color needs. They set aside multiple bunches so I can choose the best ones. They scour the whole market to get me certain specific varieties, even if they don’t have them on hand in their shops. Their help has been invaluable to me over the years, and I could not be more grateful to them. We exchange lots of smiles, jokes, hugs and family updates, as we bask in this wonderful work together.

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After several hours of intense focus, of constant decision-making, of checking off our lengthy lists and buying all the flowers we need (plus extras – so important because we’re handling very fresh, very perishable flowers and plants,  and we have to be prepared for any  challenges the flowers might bring) ~

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~ we reluctantly step out of those glorious flower-filled warehouses, always shocked to see the brightness of the morning light, and to realize how much time has passed without our even noticing.

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Now it’s time to organize all our many bundles of flowers and boxes of vases, ribbons, candles, floral foam, wire, tape and other supplies so they will fit into my little Volkswagen. That job falls to Hillary because she likes doing it, but I’m surprised she hasn’t mutinied by now because I just keep pushing the limits. 

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Once in a while, I’ve actually been known to burst into tears because I had so many flowers (ALL necessary, every single one!) and I did not see how we could possibly cram them into that one little car… but Hillary is a miracle-worker, and she makes it happen, every time. She is truly my “secret weapon.”

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If we happen to have a few minutes to spare, we  stop in at the wonderful Flower Market Cafe for a delicious treat ~ whether it’s just a steaming, frothy glass of hot cocoa (yes, they serve it in beer glasses!) or one of their mouth-watering California omelets.

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Around 9:30 a.m., with every inch of my little car packed way beyond capacity, we’re ready to start the long drive home. Usually, the car is so full we can’t see out the back, and sometimes we can barely see out the front, either! But we do what we have to do, and as you can see, we’re still smiling!

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As we head home, bridges we crossed in total darkness a few hours ago are now in full daylight, and

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we finally have time to talk about our plans for the two or three totally focused, creative days (and nights) ahead, as the wedding delivery deadline will be upon us before we know it.

At last, we back into the driveway and begin the next huge task  — that of taking everything out of the car, sorting and unwrapping all the flower bundles, recutting and stripping all their stems – every single one! – and placing them in bins of fresh water to rest and soak till it’s time to gather them into beautiful bouquets and centerpieces for another perfect wedding.

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       I may have mentioned our feline floral assistant Hidey before, and here she is again – in my car, no less, sitting on top of boxes full of flowers!

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She doesn’t spend much time around the house, but when the flowers arrive, she immediately appears and takes charge of supervising the job. It took me a while to understand her behavior, but I finally realized she is completely responding to the intense, high energy vibrations of all those glorious flowers and she can hardly get enough of their presence. (Just like me!) She likes to sleep among the buckets of flowers on our work tables at night, and when the last of the flowers are delivered and gone, she disappears again till next time.

To find out more about the incredible San Francisco flower market, go online to http://www.sanfranciscoflowermart.com and explore their excellent and informative website. There you can read about “open-to-the-public” hours, and also read about exciting plans to remodel and expand the whole market! 

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Thanks for coming! I hope you’ve enjoyed the tour.

5 thoughts on “Field Trip to the Flower Market!

  1. Sydney- your description of the flower mart is magical. I could not possibly get up at 3:00 to travel there, but your excitement is infectious and I get it! The photos are wonderful(especially the peonies) but the text is even better. I get it! Fondly, Di

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