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Floral Designer Lewis Miller’s Best Advice for Creating Your Own Mini ‘Flower Flash’

By Emmie MurphyFeb 8 2022
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Street signs, trash cans, an M5 bus stop, a smokestack on Fifth Avenue. Overflowing with roses or peonies, brightened by masses of colorful blooms. Perhaps you’ve seen them, these striking floral creations that materialize throughout New York City as if by magic. They’ve been spotted on the Upper West Side, on Sixth Avenue, and at a stoop in Bed-Stuy. They’re not happy accidents or city-sponsored beautification; they’re the spontaneous brainchild of event and floral designer Lewis Miller.

Dubbed “the Banksy of Flowers” by The New Yorker, Miller calls these creations Flower Flashes. They have popped up, as Miller says, “from the Barclays Center to Bowery Street,” and have taken social media, and the city, by storm.

The Story of Lewis Miller’s ‘Flower Flashes’

“The public street art installations began in 2016 as a random act of kindness and a random act of flowers,” Miller explains. His first project was a multicolored halo of 2,000 dahlias and carnations arranged around the John Lennon memorial at Strawberry Fields in Central Park. The response was enormous – crowds gathered, and the internet exploded. Since then, Miller and his team have installed over 100 Flower Flashes.

All the flowers are recycled from other jobs, and no setting is off-limits. Last Valentine’s Day, Miller outfitted a Mister Softee ice cream truck in front of Rockefeller Center with bright yellow, pink, and purple blooms that lay atop the truck and trailed down to the sidewalk below. He’s also the brains behind the hot dog cart flower flash in 2020 and the floral garland donning the Atlas statue in 2019.

These installations, in addition to being a vehicle of creative expression, are also a means of giving back. Some coincide with holidays or days of remembrance, like the 2018 tribute to the Fearless Girl statue on International Women’s Day, and others are truly random. For Miller, the intention is to bring his work outside of the privileged world of his clients and into a more public sphere. It’s a way to make what he does universally accessible.

The beauty of Miller’s Flower Flashes is the immediate joy they spark. Whatever is going on in the world, whatever the mood of the moment may be, it’s impossible not to be delighted when coming across something so visually striking and unexpected. The arrangements are a reminder of the power of art, of color, and of giving back. They are a reflection of city life – spontaneous, bold, and spirited. And they are also a testament to the simple pleasures of the natural world.

How to Create Your Own ‘Flower Flash’ at Home

While Miller has brought blooms to the streets, beautifying bus stops and park benches, he is also here to offer guidance on bringing flowers into the home. For the beginner, his tips are simple and practical.

“I love using ‘unloved’ flowers,” he says. “My advice would be to embrace carnations; they are romantic, have a high petal count, smell incredible, like cloves, and in large quantities and in a monochromatic palette, they can be quite impactful.” Another benefit of a flower like the carnation is cost. “If you’re just starting out, you want to use affordable blooms so there is no unnecessary pressure when experimenting,” Miller explains.

An additional element to keep in mind is environment. Designing arrangements for large events or corporate settings is different than floral touches for the home. When it comes to his own private spaces, Miller prefers single stem arrangements. “One vessel holds all tulips, another all delphinium,” he says. “I also like to say that if you can master the art of making a beautiful bud vase arrangement, you are all set. A trinity of beautiful bud vases filled with blooms running down a dining room table is simply stunning.”

So, grab some loved or unloved stems, find a vase or vessel, and make some magic of your own.

And if you’re in the Rockefeller Center neighborhood, you might want to keep an eye out for future flower flashes… You never know when one might pop up.

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