Gone in a Flower Flash
Thanks to Lewis Miller, deemed the “Banksy of Flowers,” New York trash cans and street corners have never looked better.
Spontaneity is everything for florist Lewis Miller, whose fleeting Flower Flashes go viral every time they pop up around New York City.
The idea first came to life in 2016 when Miller clandestinely composed a halo of carnations and dahlias, leftover from a midweek event, around the John Lennon memorial in Central Park. The Flower Flash, which has become so beloved that it now even even has its own book, reached a crescendo during the pandemic, when hospital workers and quarantined New Yorkers stumbled upon bursts of vibrant blooms and took to their Instagram feeds to share the installations, conceived as ephemeral public art.
Fresh off of his participation in the second annual L.E.A.F Festival of Flowers, which brought more than one million blooms to the New York’s Meatpacking District in June, the 47-year-old floral designer and founder of Lewis Miller Design talks to Digital Party about why flowers are essential and how to embrace the Flower Flash in your own arrangements.
What have you most enjoyed about participating in L.E.A.F Festival this year and last? Can you describe your creations?
The L.E.A.F’s whole idea of bringing flowers to a broader audience is so amazing, and we were thrilled to be a part of it. Last year we created four of our Flower Flashes using street signs from the artist Scott Froschauer. We did another set of signs this year, because they’re so much fun and have become iconic.
How has it felt seeing the response to your Flower Flashes?
I’m very surprised and unsurprised by the reactions, because I know how much of an impact flowers have on my life.
At the beginning of the pandemic when we were all shut in our homes, after a couple weeks without flowers, I wasn’t in such a good space. It reminded me of the power flowers have. So it’s been great being able to take my work out of the ballroom and the private party and do something unexpected and fun for no other reason than putting a smile on people’s faces. Seeing the response that people have had, it’s almost a responsibility now.
Between standard event arrangements versus larger Flower Flash installations, do you have a favorite to design?
They both feed me, and they’re both necessary. Creating beautiful rooms and environments that are full of flowers is quite a different experience than doing a Flower Flash in the middle of the night, which is guttural and instantaneous.
Before the Flower Flashes, sometimes I questioned myself asking, ‘as much as I love flowers, am I just making wealthy people’s lives prettier—is that all I do?’ The Flower Flash is the counterbalance of that.
What was it like leading a flower arranging class at Meghan Markle’s baby shower? You both are so passionate about giving back.
It was a lot of fun. After she and her friends made their arrangements, we donated them to an organization that delivered them to several New York charities. Some people would say flowers are a luxury or wasteful, but I would beg to differ. However, if only one sector of society gets them, then it becomes quite elitist.
Back to Flower Flashes, how did you discover they were your calling?
It was something I had been thinking about for probably 10 years. As business was going well, I felt that I needed to find a way to give back, and I also wanted to do something new that would stimulate my creativity.
I love New York City, and I wanted to do something random and spontaneous. I really liked the juxtaposition of pretty flowers against gritty New York construction. I always take inspiration from 17th-century Flemish still lifes, but then it’s coming out of a garbage bin on the corner of Sixth Avenue and 14th Street.
Do you have to work around city approvals? The process must be an adrenaline rush.
I definitely get a little thrill from doing something that may or may not be completely legal. In certain locations, we are able to get permission. For others, I think it’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission. I also live by the philosophy that if something is beautiful, no one’s going to complain. Regardless, we always go back and clean up after ourselves.
What trends are you seeing in floral design at large right now?
Arrangements have become much looser and carefree. There’s also a strong return to color, and obviously using local, sustainable material is very important. Flowers are increasingly being used in unexpected ways. There are more Flower Flash-style installations at weddings and events where flowers are at the corner of the room and growing on a wall.
Another trend that I love is not just embracing a single fashionable flower, but using all flowers democratically, whether sunflowers and mums with sweet pea and orchids. It opens your options for color and texture.