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Every day, since the coronavirus pandemic began, millions of flowers are being destroyed. The multi-billion-dollar flower industry is experiencing a drastic cut in demand that is affecting the global supply chain from the grower, via the auction house, to the floral designer.

“Buy flowers, not toilet paper”

Dutch auction houses trade 40% of the world’s flowers. They must now dispose of almost 70% of their supply unsold. Growers around the world, seeing their flowers destined for compost, are choosing to give them away to healthcare workers instead, or selling them at give-away prices, urging people to “buy flowers, not toilet paper.” Over 1,000 companies have joined an initiative to buy and give away flowers to mitigate industry losses.

“Drone footage of flower parks is the closest to nature that many in lockdown can get”

Meanwhile, flowers keep on growing. Tulips, daffodils and hyacinths are turning flower parks into magnificent landscapes that, in many places, no visitor can currently enjoy. Instead, they are brought to our screens via drone footage taken far above the fields. Sadly, these images are the closest to nature that many in quarantine or lockdown can get. Being near to greenery reduces pain and anxiety, so the lucky ones are those who can visit the currently accessible gardens or parks that enhance feelings of wellbeing. 

Flowers amaze us, lift our moods and can even have medicinal properties. They are objects of desire, romance and ritual, sites for experimentation and engineering. As some flowers fly more kilometres around the world than most individuals ever do, new movements advocate localising the flower industry, while protecting farmers and florists. 

“It’s time to cherish wild, local, slow flowers”

It’s time to cherish wild, local, slow flowers. To plant seasonal varieties, and practice organic, sustainable farming methods where workers’ safety is paramount. At a time when so many human routines, production systems and patterns of consumption are languishing, instead of mourning them, why not let 1000 equitable others bloom?


Het Nieuwe Instituut Online

This is the full version of the short editorial text which introduces the thematic newsletter Flower Power, which Het Nieuwe Instituut sent to subscribers on 14 May 2020. This edition about flowers is the eighth in a series of weekly anthologies on design culture and the outbreak of the coronavirus. Every week, different institute staff are guest editors, selecting content, online programming and projects from the field. Read more about the power of flowers in the time of corona here. See the full series here, including previous selections on Data Matter and Who is We?


Delany Boutkan, Marten Kuijpers, Klaas Kuitenbrouwer, Setareh Noorani
Alex Walker