Who Knew? Chicago One of Nation’s Best Local Flower City?

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By Jill Brooke

Not surprisingly, the state of California had many sun-kissed winners for the Lawn Love survey of the Top 20 cities for best local flowers.

After all, California is one of the most prolific and industrious agricultural states not only in floral production but innovation. 

So, yes, Santa Rosa. Home to the Association of specialty Cut Flowers as well as the annual Luther Burbank Rose Parade, was number 1 followed by Los Angeles, Orange, Santa Ana and San Diego. 

Honolulu, Hawaii – think of orchids and all those welcoming leis – broke up this juggernaut since San Francisco came next and then Glendale slipped in at 11 while Torrance entered into the 16th ranking. 

The next pocket of this survey is where some surprises surfaced. Chicago, Illinois ranked ahead of New York, Philadelphia, and even Miami, Florida which is the epicenter of imported flower distribution with a robust flower market. 

Yes, Chicago ceremoniously also beat out Orlando, Florida, Cincinnati, Ohio and even boho chic Austin Texas.

“It was a surprise,” says Lawn Love managing editor Sharon Sullivan, noting that the city continues to bloom culturally. “The city has great delivery access as well as demand.”

Well guess that’s why Jennifer Gates chose Chicago based Rishi Patel, of HMR Designs to do the flowers at her wedding because there is a big market for floral artistry rooting  in the city where residents also enjoy seeing flowers at Lincoln Park Conservancy, Garfield Park Conservancy and even Steve’s Flower Market. 

Another mystery is why Chicago also beat out Seattle Washington, home to the famous Floret flower farm, as well as Portland, Oregon and Salt, Lake city, Utah. 

As Sullivan revealed, the study compared nearly 200 cities based on flower and delivery access, vendor quality and local demand. 

It won’t shock you that California won rankings for vendor quality since the state produced 76% of cut flowers in the nation behind Florida in total floriculture crop sales. However, Florida’s delivery systems for cut local flowers didn’t rank that high. Quality not quantity prevailed. 

Dig deeper and maybe we can figure out why Chicago ranked so high as flower lovers. In 1908, Illinois was the first of four states to choose the violet as its State Flower. It was selected by schoolchildren in 1908. The violet is also the State Flower of New Jersey, Rhode Island and Wisconsin. 

Not only does Illinois have a state flower, but as of 1966, Chicago is one of the few cities that also has its own city flower – the chrysanthemum.  So despite its harsher weather conditions compared to California, Chicago is clearly a place that loves flowers. 

Here is the survey data – Good convo for dinner tonight.

Jill Brooke is a former CNN correspondent, Post columnist and editor-in-chief of Avenue and Travel Savvy magazine. She is an author and the editorial director of FPD,  floral editor for Aspire Design and Home magazine and contributor to Florists Review magazine.