LOS ANGELES – The fragrant scent of roses, lilacs and peonies belied the sweat and stress simmering in L.A.'s Flower District on Friday, where a nationwide flower shortage was driving up demand — and prices — ahead of Mothers’ Day.
By 8 a.m., throngs of shoppers were criss-crossing the alleys of the historic downtown district while vendors scrambled to wrap bouquets and assist long lines of customers.
“Roses in particular are tight,” said Aaron McKinnon, manager of Mayesh, a vendor at the Los Angeles Flower Market. “So are ranunculus and anemones.”
The result is that prices are “sky high,” McKinnon said: A bouquet of 25 roses is running between $30 and $60, depending on the variety, compared with the more typical range of $16 to $30.
There are several factors driving the shortage, many of which can be tied to the pandemic, industry experts said. COVID-19 shutdowns made it hard to predict retail numbers, and unfavorable weather conditions affected many growing regions.
But for some shoppers Friday, the steep cost of the flowers was a small price to pay for the chance to celebrate with loved ones after a long and lonely year.
“I’m having my first family gathering on Sunday,” said Joy Gahring, 66, of the San Gabriel Valley, who purchased a bouquet of sweet peas in preparation for the weekend.
Despite the success of creating effective vaccines for COVID-19 in such a short time, the nation is now facing a second challenge: ensuring that everyone eligible to receive the vaccines feel comfortable getting vaccinated when it’s their turn.
Last year, Gahring and her family went to a park on Mother’s Day, but they “sat far away and couldn’t hug,” she recalled. She was looking forward to hosting three mothers — her sister-in-law, daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law’s mother — at her home Sunday and finally having the opportunity to cook for them again.
“I’m the family matriarch, and I haven’t been able to be the matriarch for a year,” Gahring said, tearing up. “It’s been a hard year, and I just want to honor them.”