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Barbara Caldwell

Chelsea Wholesale Flower Market,
75 Ninth Ave., at 15th St.; 212-620-7500

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How important is it to live with plants?
It’s essential. You should buy flowers once a week. They take away the sadness.

Do you talk to your plants?
I talk to them in my head, or from my heart. But never verbally. If you care about something, it will respond to you.

Do you garden at home?
I live in Hoboken and my backyard is overflowing with tulips, daffodils, lilies, hydrangea, sunflowers. On a day when it’s really hot and steamy and we want to be in Savannah, we hang Spanish moss from the trees and drink white wine and play some jazz.

What kind of advice do you give customers?
Keep a very clean vase and change the water twice a week. Cut the stems on a diagonal with a sharp knife, and do it really fast. If you cut them with a scissor, the stems will be pinched, and they’ll develop seals on their ends.

What’s the best plant to buy right now?
Tulips, because it’s spring. Ficus plants are tall and beautiful, and they go all year round. They need a lot of light but hardly any maintenance. My favorite is the hydrangea flower, and we have a lot of those now. The white ones are just overwhelming.

Who shops at Chelsea Flower Market?
Working-class people, middle-class people; we get a lot of celebrities. Yesterday we had Charles Rangel—he bought a topiary azalea plant. I think it was a gift for his wife. Jason Priestley came in, too, but he didn’t buy anything.

Are cacti popular?
Mostly men buy cacti. I don’t know why that’s so, but men love cactus. It has something to do—

With their shape?
I don’t know, but every time we get some in, we sell out, and it’s all men, men, men. Every time they come to the register, it’s a guy with a cactus.


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