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As the saying goes, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. This rings especially true for floral designer Lewis Miller, who has been transforming NYC trash cans and public art into giant bouquets with his “flower flashes.” “I wanted to gift flowers to New Yorkers and make them smile,” says Miller. “The motivation has always been singular: to create an emotional response with flowers.”

The public displays began last fall with a ring of blooms around the Strawberry Fields monument in Central Park, and now Miller’s team is constantly scouting new locations. “We have to figure out how to execute our vision and not get arrested,” he says.

Miller’s Director of Special Projects, Irini Arakas Greenbaum, is the point person when it comes to finding the next best trash can. “We have an entire folder filled with images of trash cans. There are Soho cans, Midtown cans, West Village cans…” says Miller. “Scouting for trash cans is an art! Not all are worthy of a flower flash.”

When possible, the team tries to reuse flowers from previous events. “It’s nice to give our clients’ flowers a groovy second life,” says Miller. But if the scheduling doesn’t work out, they place orders specifically for the displays with vendors at the Chelsea flower market.

The installs take place early in the morning, and the flower bandits always aim for an element of surprise. “We are fast and furious when it comes to these flashes,” says Miller. “We start at 5:45am. We don’t like to be seen installing them.”

Often the garbage will have been emptied a few hours before Miller & co. arrive (“the sanitation department is our best friend,” he jokes), so the flowers can rest in a clean vessel. Once it’s installed, the team tags it and leaves.

“What happens to it after is out of our hands and varies with each install,” Miller says. “When we flash a sculpture, the flowers tend to last longer, sometimes even three or four days. With the trash cans, people feel more inclined to take them. It’s usually the early morning dog walkers that have the stickiest fingers and take the flowers home with them.”

Follow Lewis Miller and his gang of flower bandits on Instagram to find out where they’ll beautify next.

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Floral Styling 101: How to Make an Asymmetrical Bouquet Trend We Love: Graphic Floral Vases 3 Stunning Centerpiece Ideas for Spring