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Musings » Living With Flowers
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Gary Kawaguchi
San Francisco. California
Flower Market Inc. 1993

Many of our members enjoy going to the flower market at 6th and Brannan Streets whatever their level of expertise in flower arranging. It is that ultimate paradox: a business in beauty. The merchandise is sublime but the mechanics of supplying it is mundane, just like any other. Each shop is independent but they rent their space from the two principal owners of the property, a Japanese American corporation and an Italian –American corporation.

Gary Kawaguchi, a free-lance writer descended from a flower-growing family in Seattle, tells the story of the Japanese half of the market. In the recent past extraordinary attention has been paid to the market as the Italian-American family accepted an offer from the Academy of Art University to buy their section and turn it into studios for the sculpture department. The whole matter is being considered by the San Francisco City government.

Modern commercial horticulture in California dates from 1849 when Colonel J. J. Warren came from Massachusetts and opened a nursery in Sacramento, selling camellias and other exotic plants. The enormous wealth generated by the gold and silver mines led to an insatiable demand for mansions with lavish gardens. Their wives needed flowers for their conservatories and dinner tables. Florists and nurserymen flocked to fill this vacuum. By 1875 there were more than 150 nurseries in the state.

Thousands of Chinese men came to work in the mines and stayed to build the rest of the state. Huge numbers of Japanese farmers also came, to start truck farms, growing both flowers and vegetables. Mr Kawaguchi opens this account of the California Flower Market with the Domoto brothers, now legendary nurserymen.

Chrysanthemums were a classic Japanese flower and highly prized. They did not grow as well as they should in California, but Hiroshi Yoshiike recognized that the winds in the Bay area were causing harm to the blossoms. He used cheesecloth as a screen and was able to sell ‘mums with huge heads. Others copied him very quickly.