The Adderley Flower Market
Cape Town offers several markets, but none are so colorful as the Adderley Flower Market. The market is tucked into Trafalgar Place, a dark, partially-covered, pedestrian alley between Standard Bank and the Golden Acre Mall. We stumbled upon it. We didn't really know it was there until we walked by and saw the vast array of flowers that appeared out of nowhere and extended a full block back to Parliament Street.
The Adderley Flower Market is one of the city's oldest markets dating back 120+ years. It's a Cape Town institution, open Mondays through Saturdays year round. It appears the first flower seller was commissioned by Stuttafords, a well-known, now defunct, city department store to provide wild flowers for resale at the store. After delivering her quota to Stuttafords, she sold her excess bouquets on Adderley Street to passersby. Soon other industrious vendors followed and a cottage industry was created. The flower businesses have been handed down through the generations from grandmother, to mother, to daughter and the venue has moved from the Adderley streetside pavement to Trafalgar Place.
The venue isn't particularly pretty. It's dark and dingy with refuse strewn around … some flower parts, some discarded trash. It's crowded with folks trying to walk through or enter the mall. On one side of the alley, the flowers are displayed on plastic crates in old 5-gallon plastic paint buckets. The vendors sit opposite, sometimes in the mall entrance or the mall fire exits, on upturned buckets or in dilapidated plastic chairs. The fragrance of the flowers drifts in the air at odds with frequent whiffs of fast food from McDonalds and Nandos inside the mall.
Originally, only wild flowers were picked and sold, ultimately causing a problem as more and more vendors picked the area clean of flowers. With an increased market demand, growing flowers in home gardens became more prominent over the years. The term “blomdraers”, flower carriers, evolved for those people who carried the flowers to town and sold them and it is still used today. Evidently, there were more vendors in years past, but changes in buying habits, traffic congestion and competition from every supermarket that sells fresh flowers has caused a decline in the number of vendors and threatens the continued existence of the market. Nowadays, though some flowers are still home grown, the bulk of the flowers are trucked in from Johannesburg.
We watched one woman working deftly to create a distinctive bird-of-paradise floral arrangement. As soon as it was done, a younger woman, her daughter maybe, whisked it away for delivery.
All the typical flower market blossoms were represented … lilies, mums, roses, daisies, dahlias… but there were also more exotics displayed like ornamental cabbage flowers and sunflowers.
There were beautiful proteas and local fynbos dyed in a variety of startling colors that Mother Nature never intended.
Buyers can choose individual blooms or pick up a pre-packaged bouquet.
The vendors are noted for witty and boisterous repartee. They were pretty subdued when we were there in the mid-afternoon. One fellow, however, was more than happy to pose for me and took great delight in seeing his picture on my camera.
Midway through our list of errands was not the time to purchase a bouquet, but I might be able to convince the captain that a return visit for some fresh flowers might be in his best interest.