The Flower District on Mother's Day

 On Mother's Day, kitchen tables, cubicle shelves and workspaces across the country are festooned with endless bouquets of flowers. The special place that mothers hold in the hearts of their children is celebrated with these colorful displays, which come in endless arrangements, colors and sizes. And while these pretty clusters of flowering plants serve to remind mothers just how appreciated they are, what may be little-known is the work that goes into making those flowers available to shoppers in the first place.

In the heart of Los Angeles, nestled between Wall Street and San Pedro, between Seventh and Eighth Streets, sits the Flower District, a bustling floral business center that provides flowers, bouquets and exotic plants throughout the year. Come Mother's Day, the market-styled district explodes with activity, as shipment after shipment of fresh flowers are trucked in, prettied up and put on sale throughout the day. The delivery, preparation and selling of flowers lasts longer than 24 hours, and many shop owners work from Saturday evening until Monday afternoon.

Rebeca Robleda, who owns a small flower shop along Eighth Street, spent the day rushing between preparing flowers for bouquets, putting them out in front of the store, and completing monetary transactions as customers spilled in and out of her tiny shop.

"It's busier this year. There are only three very busy days: Guadalupe Day, Valentine's Day and Mother's Day," Robleda said between tasks. Competing for sales with the dozens of other shops that filled the Flower District, she operated her business with the aid of three family members who had enlisted their services to help during the busy holiday. While Guillarmo Villa, 24, cut stems and pulled petals for different arrangements, 20-year-old Mariela Gomez tried to woo customers into the cramped stall with big doe eyes and an inviting smile. "I'm the one that says ‘Hello, nice to meet you,'" she said, beaming.

Farther from the nucleus of the action, but just as trafficked, orchid specialty shop Secret Garden focused more on quality than quantity, providing elaborately detailed orchid arrangements inspired by florist and owner Gina Chung. While Chung maintains a steady clientele throughout the year by providing high-end arrangements to corporate and celebrity events, when the demand becomes as lively as it gets on Mother's Day, her children show their holiday spirit by helping out the family business.

"Usually my mother sells privately to clients who make very large orders, so she provides wholesale prices. During Mother's Day she can offer these wholesale prices to the public, so it's always busy on Mother's Day," said Lauren Chung, the owner's daughter, between serving customers and perfecting arrangements.

While individually-owned shops like Robledo's and Secret Garden made the most of hectic street sales, Flower District malls like the Southern California Flower Market overflowed with fervid flower fanfare. These spacious warehouses vibrated with noise, color and energy as shoppers haggled over prices and vendors bustled about, filling orders, cashiering and restocking presentations. The Southern California Flower Market houses 30 separate vendor stalls, all competing for business with each other by offering more elaborate displays, more exotic flowers and more flexibility on prices than neighboring stalls. Freight trucks routinely pulled into the distribution area to unload refrigerated floral cargo, and wilting flowers were crushed underfoot as vendors scrambled to resupply their stalls with the brightest and freshest floral merchandise.

And yet, this chaotic frenzy serves a single purpose. Far from the hustle and bustle of flower commerce and miles from dye-stained hands and thorn-pricked fingertips, the reason for all of this floral fanaticism manifests on living room mantles and windows sills and from behind the backs of children, young and old, across America. All of the labor and toil and mania ensure that millions of mothers, from Los Angeles to Tulsa to Raleigh, know how appreciated they are on their special day.