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Flowers make me happy. As a kid, I used to pick gardenias, camellias, ferns from the backyard and leave arrangements around the house. I don’t have any formal training, but over the years I’ve made lots of wedding bouquets, and I try to keep fresh flowers in the apartment.
Of course, that can get expensive in the city — where there’s no backyard to pull from — so over the years I’ve learned how to put together pretty options by buying flowers from the supermarket and rearranging. Here are a few tips to keep you in fresh flowers using grocery store options, but leave you cash for the actual groceries:
CHOOSING YOUR FLOWERS
1. Use what you have.
For the love of all that is holy, if you have a backyard, pull greens from trees and plants to use as fresh, unusual filler — or even as the mainstay of a bouquet with a few flowers scattered throughout. Much of the impact of florist bouquets comes from the novelty of the greens they use. Unexpected greens make your arrangements less expensive and more artistic.
2. Limit your options.
Whenever possible, I try to buy single-bloom bouquets. I can just throw them in a vase if I feel lazy. Or when I buy a couple bouquets and mix them up, I’m not paying for all the crappy filler they throw in to make the mixed bouquets seem bigger. Plus I don’t have to separate out the flowers before I rearrange them. And speaking of single blooms…
3. Get to know your roses.
Sometimes roses are your only option when you’re shopping in the deli department. If you’re facing a sea of roses at the grocery store, steer away from the perfect streamlined buds, which are more expensive anyway, and look for petals with a ruffled edge to them.
These buds are much more likely to actually open, giving you full gorgeous roses, as opposed to the hybridized buds that often stay tight until they rot. You can also facilitate blooming by removing outer “guard petals.” More info on that here.
4. Consider color.
With color, I usually do one of two things: 1. Get two or three types of flower in different shades of the same color. 2. Choose two to four types of flowers in two colors that please me when they’re smooshed together. I like bright combos like lime green and pink, purple and gold, orange and green, but your tastes may differ, obviously.
PREPPING FOR ARRANGEMENT
5. Pull apart mixed bouquets.
If mixed-bloom bouquets are your only option, separate flowers by type before you start arranging. Consider making small, single bloom nosegays from each type of flower, or combining two complimentary colors and making a couple of bouquets.
6. Groom flowers.
Remove all but the top leaves so they won’t rot in the water and promote bacteria that will kill your flowers prematurely. I like to cut apart multi-stem flowers to make them easier to arrange. You can remove thorns from roses too, but I usually don’t bother. If your flowers came with a packet of food, go ahead and mix that into your water.
PUTTING YOUR BOUQUET TOGETHER
7. Arrange from the middle out.
I hold the biggest, prettiest bloom in my left hand, then use my right hand to arrange different textures and colors in a circular pattern around it. I turn my bouquet as I work and keep hold of the stems.
8. Secure your bouquet.
Once you have a shape you like, secure it before you put it in the vase. I use floral tape, which is effective and super cheap, but washi tape, plain masking tape, or a simple rubber band will also work. I trim the bouquet stems after I’ve taped them, erring on the short side. I tend to like the undersides of my flowers to rest on the edge of their container.
9. Choose an unexpected container.
I use drinking glasses, tin cans, juice pitchers. Anything that can hold water can hold a bouquet. And again, novelty is what sets arrangements apart.
10. Use your leftovers.
I usually end up with enough runty, short-stemmed, or not-quite-perfect flowers for a second bouquet, so I make one for my little boy’s bedroom or the bathroom. Also, I never throw away a bloom. Because flowers, you guys! They’re too pretty to put in the garbage. So if one of the stems breaks off of a large flower like a dahlia, just fill a shallow bowl or a champagne saucer with water, and set the bloom afloat. Now you have a couple bouquets, plus something bright for the kitchen counter.
Look at that. You’re so damn artsy.