Tuesday, February 14, 2012

How to get the most out of your Valentine's Day flowers

I cringe at the idea of taking home a wrapped bouquet and plopping the flowers and sparse greenery in a vase.  I guess that's the former floral shop owner in me.  Flowers should be arranged!  Hooray!  Yeah wait, that's scary if you don't know how to arrange flowers, right?  Like anything else in the world, it just takes a little practice.  Valentine's Day in the floral business is crazy.  Thousands of roses out the door for delivery while men pile into the shop as late as you'll stay open hoping to arrive home with a gorgeous display of high priced (inflated first by the growers, then by the wholesalers, and finally by the retailers) long stem roses...$85 any other day, but $125 in the days leading up to Valentine's Day.
Here are some quick tips on how to arrange your wrapped flowers.  When you get your flowers from the market, take a little time to separate the greenery from the flower stems.  The greenery goes into the vase first.  Use the shorter greenery to skirt the lower part of the arrangement.  Insert that greenery at what I call a "hard angle" rather than sticking it straight up and down to reach the bottom of the vase.  The taller greenery will go more into the top or center of the vase.  The filler does just that...it fills in the empty spaces.  Disclaimer:  I would NEVER use baby's breath in an arrangement.  Unfortunately, market bouquets really skimp on the greenery/filler and I needed the extra filler.  If you are making your own arrangements, look for wax flower, bouvardia, aster, or other small bud stems in place of baby's breath.  Now add the flowers.  The larger (sometimes heavier) flowers go towards the bottom of the arrangement (lilies and sunflowers are good examples) and the taller stems (roses, larkspur, delphinium) go in the center for height.  Don't be afraid to cut the lower stems shorter and insert them into the vase at a hard angle.  A long stem will stick straight out or straight up and down.  For the lower flowers, trim the stem and try again.  Right there is the difference between an arranged bunch of flowers and a bunch of flowers stuck into a vase.   Good rule of thumb is that the arrangement should be one and a half times the height of the vase.
Most stems straight out of the wrapper will be cut straight across at the bottom of the stem.  If a flat bottom of a stem is against the bottom of the vase, it won't get water.  Take floral sheers, a knife or even scissors and cut the bottom of the stem at a 45degree angle.  This allows water to get to the stem.  Keep enough water in the vase to cover the stems.  Change the water every few days and re-cut 45 degree angles at the bottoms of the stems for longer lasting roses.  Also, don't place your arrangement next to electronics or fans and heaters.
More tips for Valentine's Day flowers:  florists get sick of pulling together a bazillion dozen roses.  Mix it up and ask for a spring mix with roses.
Heck, order something without roses and you'll save a bundle.  It doesn't have to be a red/pink/white color scheme.  Choose the recipient's favorite colors and flowers:
A small romantic bedside arrangement might be something new and fun.  The flower delivery people get to experience reaction after reaction.  My delivery guys reported that most women we delivered flowers to on Valentine's Day ohhhh'ed and ahhhhh'ed more over the smaller tight arrangements than the grand dozen roses with towering curly willow.
Add tropicals such as dendrobium and cymbidium orchids, birds of paradise, anthuriums, etc. for a more exotic look.
Have a favorite vase at home?  Bring it to your local florist and you should save anywhere from $5-$30 and beyond, depending on the vase.  Final tip:  if you are ordering flowers for someone far away- ditch the flower wire companies like Teleflora, FTD, 1800Flowers.  Let's say you order a $50 arrangement.  The wire company takes a fee and then they contact a local florist to see if they'll accept your order.  The florist might get $35 for that order.  Your $50 order has just become a $35 order.  Now the florist is supposed to deliver a $50 product, but trust me...that's not the way it works.  The florist will take out their standard $10-ish delivery fee.  Now you have a $25 arrangement.  Typically, the vase and greenery averages $7-$15 for a standard vase.   Now you have $10 worth of flowers.  I can make a really pretty and full arrangement with even $10 worth of flowers, but chances are, I used a lot more filler flowers and probably not any premium flowers.  Your recipient may or may not get an arrangement that looks anything like what you selected from a photo.  Do THIS instead:  Contact a local florist (Google!).  Order a $50 spring mix and your recipient will get 3x the arrangement with flowers that are fresh and in-season in that area.

My (now) boss knows the routine:  he brings me wrapped flowers and a vase.  Another co-woker caught on and ran out to his truck to grab his wife's dozen wrapped roses.  I joked and told them they shouldn't have.  They said they didn't.  I love arranging flowers and have offered my services for the joy of getting to arrange flowers every now and then.  I do miss the floral business; being around flowers every day and creating something new several times a day.  Everyone feels good about receiving flowers- even if it involved a death.  Flowers are uplifting and every person who says "don't waste your money of flowers" I believe secretly wants flowers.  You aren't paying for how long they last, you're paying for that moment when the flowers are presented...and that moment is magical. 

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