In America, seasonal change is ushered in by Macy’s and its productions, from the holiday season with the Thanksgiving Day Parade to summer with fireworks for America’s birthday. When it comes to welcoming spring, the department store puts on its annual Flower Show, a longstanding tradition that began 65 year ago and is now marking its 42nd year at the company’s Herald Square location.
This year’s show, America the Beautiful, celebrates the wonders of the nation’s natural world at five stores around the country (NYC, Philadelphia, Chicago, Minneapolis, San Francisco). For New Yorkers who visit the show, it’s a chance to step out of the hustle and bustle and immerse themselves in gardens representing various regions of the United States. The executive producer behind the show is Mike Gansmoe, who is responsible for overseeing everything from conception to putting that last flower in place during overnight setups. 6sqft recently spoke with Mike to find out what’s blooming at this year’s show.
What goes on behind the scenes to coordinate the flower show?
It’s a year in the making. Once we sit down and figure out the concept, we roll that out to our design teams, and they go to work right away, drawing different ideas of what the gardens could look like. Once the scenic elements are designed and approved, we move to our nurseries, and in New York it’s Ireland Gannon. The talented team there brings the drawings to life with the plant material that they source. I think the trickiest part of the whole scenario is when they force the plant material to bloom on cue for the flower show, which to me is quite miraculous.
It’s really important to us that it fits well with the store. We had a beautiful remodel of the Herald Square store, so you want to accentuate that, not diminish it. We do a lot of thinking about how to make it fit architecturally and design-wise, and we work with our visual team as we’re putting the plants together to help us be store-centric. In New York we can’t install during the day, so everybody goes to work once the store closes at night. It’s about a week-and-a-half install to bring the show to life.
How did you decide upon this year’s theme?
I remember the moment that the idea came up. I was with Joe Feczko, who’s our Senior Vice President of Integrated Marketing, at one of the overnight installs last year when we were doing Art in Bloom. It was two or three in the morning and we were chatting about what should we do next year. He said, “What about America the Beautiful? We’re always looking outside. What about ourselves?” I thought oh, that’s brilliant.
Where are you looking for inspiration?
I think inspiration comes from a lot of different places. Last year we did a show called Art in Bloom, so we depicted various genres of art. I spent a lot of time researching at MoMA and different galleries around New York. This one [America the Beautiful] was kind of in everyone’s wheel house. The way the world is these days with the events that we do, we’re always traveling. Besides the fireworks and the parade, we do tree lightings and flower shows across the country, so a lot of our team is traveling around. They’re really pulling inspiration from across the United States.
Can you tell us some of the creations on display this year?
Depicting the East and West Coasts was important, as was the Rockies and the Southwest. At Herald Square for the Northeast garden, we have a rendition of a lighthouse that we planted. It’s different scenic elements that let the audience know, “Okay, I’m in the Northeast now.” For the Pacific Northwest, we’re doing a reenactment of the Golden Gate Bridge. Our centerpiece, which is really extraordinary this year, is the Statue of Liberty’s torch. They’ve planted the entire torch with floral materials, so it’s a beautiful golden glow. In the Midwest garden area, on the mezzanine level, the team came up with the great idea of putting a sea of sunflowers and having them graphically depicted. It’s probably 80-100 feet wide, and it’s a panoramic backdrop to the Midwest garden.
We have different sponsor gardens. There’s a large replica of Dino the Dinosaur covered in more than 5,000 succulents. There are fossils buried under sand and brushes, so it’s fun for the kids to sweep away and find the fossils. And we have bouquet of the day designers who are featured throughout the show. So in the middle of the show, there’s this incredible over-scaled bouquet. We also do some great windows along Broadway. Gloria Sullivan and our window team created various regions of the country. They go hand in hand; you see the beautiful windows and all of a sudden you walk in the store and see the flower show. When you come into the store, it’s so fragrant you can just smell spring. It’s definitely in the air.
Display from 2013’s “The Painted Garden” show, via This Illustrated Life
What does it mean to carry on this Macy’s tradition?
Macy’s is about tradition. The parade, the fireworks, the flower shows, the tree lightings — for all the events we do across the country it’s important to us to be a part of the community and uphold those traditions. I feel honored to be a part of it. I’ve always enjoyed nature, but because we get so busy with our lives and are always flying a million miles an hour, it’s important to stop and smell the roses as they say.
Macy’s Flower Show runs from March 20th – April 3rd
[This interview has been edited]
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All images courtesy of Macy’s unless otherwise noted; Lead image via Sea Streak