Lonely Planet Writer

A floral designer is transforming trash cans around New York City

Spring is here and New York City is in full bloom, from the leafy green Highline to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s Cherry Blossoms to sidewalk trash cans. (If you’re confused, imagine how bustling New Yorkers must have felt.) Floral designer Lewis Miller and his team have been quietly creating stunning “floral flashes” in public spots around the city.

One of the floral flashes in New York.
One of the floral flashes in New York. Image by Lewis Miller Design

The project began with the John Lennon memorial in Central Park — Miller’s goal was to gift flowers, and a magical memory, to the people of New York. Working in the early hours of the morning, the team added a colorful border of 2000 pink, purple, orange, and yellow dahlias and carnations to the iconic Imagine mosaic. Since then, the designer and event producer has transformed, if only temporarily, Robert Indiana’s Love sculpture on West 55th Street and Sixth Avenue, the Alice in Wonderland statue in Central Park, and even a few trash cans around the city with bursts of bright blooms. “It’s a strange thing seeing someone take multiple shots of a NYC garbage can,” Miller tells Lonely Planet.

He has been dubbed a 'Florist-Bandit' by Vogue magazine.
He has been dubbed a ‘Florist-Bandit’ by Vogue magazine. Image by Lewis Miller Design

Miller says he takes many factors into consideration when choosing the next location. “My special projects manager Irini Greenbaum and I are always scouting new locations,” he says. “With all the flower flashes, we think about the environment, foot traffic and risk factor.” Once, a disgruntled doorman threatened to call the police while the team embellished the Love statue on Valentine’s Day. “I guess he wasn’t a fan of flowers or the holiday!”

The tribute at the Imagine mosaic in Strawberry Fields, Central Park.
The tribute at the Imagine mosaic in Strawberry Fields, Central Park. Image by Lewis Miller

New Yorkers and visitors are loving the whimsical creations, and Miller has been able to witness the response both in person and on Instagram. “The reactions initially are disbelief and then a huge smile,” he says. His favorite so far came from a Central Park groundskeeper. “We had just finished making our first flash, the Imagine mosaic in Central Park, and noticed him walking over with a broom and a leaf blower strapped to his back.” The designer worried the man would blow away all their hard work, but instead he lovingly brushed the fallen leaves away from their floral installation. “It was a very sweet gesture,” Miller says. “After he finished, he gave us a thumbs up.”

The designer won’t reveal what he’s planning next, but whatever it is will certainly make New York a little more colorful.