Tender at the Bone was my Christmas stocking book and…
My dear friend Margaret is married off! What a wonderful wedding she had in San Luis Obispo last weekend. After a busy week of last minute trips to Britex for ribbon and Amazon orders for all the tiny details we’d forgotten, I headed to the San Francisco Flower Mart early Friday morning.
There’s been a wholesale flower market in San Francisco for over 100 years, and the current location at 6th and Brannan is one of my favorite places in the whole city. Thankfully, its future is secure despite new condos being built on the block. Here are a few pro tips for your next trip to the market:
1. Get a badge so you can shop early – If you have a business license, you can apply for a badge to the market for about $60. Otherwise, you’re limited to shopping after 10:00 am when many vendors are closed and the selection isn’t as great. Plus, it’s so fun to wear a badge and it gets you free parking! Jackie and I arrived just before 7:00 am on Friday, the real pros arrive at 2:00 am.
2. Scope it out a week ahead – The selection is always changing, but a visiting a week in advance will give you a good sense of which vendors will be the best sources. Everyone’s friendly and helpful after the first morning rush, they can give you advice on what’s freshest. Take notes so you know where to head first on shopping day.
3. Dress for warmth and comfort – You’re going to be hauling wet branches, carrying bundles of newspaper and stepping through cold puddles, dress accordingly in dark, comfortable clothes.
4. Bring your buckets – If you’re not heading straight home (or, like us, driving 4 hours South) bring a few paint buckets with you as you shop. Vendors will gladly fill the bottom with water to keep your flowers hydrated for the drive. Small paper or plastic cups are handy for delicate, small things. Hearty, tall greenery can travel without water.
5. Don’t delay – When you see something you like, buy it up right away. The best, freshest flowers are snapped up quickly in the busy morning rush and it probably won’t be there when you come back.
6. Load up on greenery – Beautiful olive branches, eucalyptus, lambs ear, geranium leaves, fig branches, ferns, berries and seeds are in vast supply at the flower market. I like to buy interesting, inexpensive greenery first, and then add in the more expensive roses and other blooms.
7. Go for pancakes! – The restaurant at the entrance to the Flower Mart has the best pancakes on the planet and the nicest wait staff too. Reward your early morning work with a hearty fuel up at Bechelli’s before hitting the road.
8. Process before arranging – When you get home, unwrap the flowers, trim the stems of extra leaves and thorns, and place the flowers back in fresh water in a cool place. Throw out anything that’s still looking droopy an hour after resting. Having everything processed first makes the work of arranging bouquets and centerpieces go much faster.