The man responsible for the Met’s Great Hall arrangements is Remco van Vliet. Every Monday you will find him high atop a ladder busily preparing the week’s creations. Remco was kind enough to invite me into his studio for a morning, show me his workspace and the small world in which his business dwells – the Flower District.
If you view his website you will soon see that Remco designs fantastic, flower-centric events that transport guests to another world. In contrast to that, the only storefront he has is a small business card taped to his door. middle of Tsukiji. Even though it is towards the end of the District’s work day (12:00!), Remco brings me on a mini street tour to meet his extended family. All of his flowers come right from this street; his brother’s wholesale business is right nearby. The shop is closing when we arrive and they are rushing the flowers back into the enormous cooler room to preserve their freshness. He explains that the flowers come from the Dutch flower auction block, Aalsmeer, which is the single largest commercial space in the world (they auction 19 million flowers every DAY!). We flit from shop to shop, and Remco’s eyes (possibly the sharpest tool in his repertoire) never stop as he searches over the day’s offerings. The handshakes and greetings also are abundant, signaling the tight community that lives and works on this street. According to Remco, it is always a challenge to create the Met’s large arrangements. He inherited this legacy after apprenticing for several years with Chris Giftos, the original Met florist, who developed special methods for creating such large arrangements. He has to find good supplies of large enough flowers and branches every week, which can be difficult. They also must last a week without withering. In the shops I see stacks of branches – Remco points out the ‘song of India’ which will appear in the following week’s arrangements. The next week I see them among the arrangements and feel as if I am seeing an old friend as I recall them in their bundled state. The weekly rotation at the Met is created through his imagination to use what is sold within the local shops. And he miraculously keeps this up for every week of the entire year. My little vase at home suddenly seems easy. -Matt N. (not Maxwell)