Thursday, January 22, 2009

Bloomin' Beauties

In New York City, almost every corner deli has a flower stand outside, while legit florists tend to be fewer and further between (and much, much pricier). While the quality isn't always great, the blooms can be tempting and there are lots of deals to be had (two dozen roses for $10?!?), if you know what flowers to buy and how to care for them at home.

I tend to prefer to buy single varieties of flower and either keep them as a monochromatic bunch or arrange them at home, rather than buying the mixed bouquets at the deli. I find that frequently the deli will mix older blooms with fresher ones, making them (and my enthusiasm) more likely to droop faster. Plus, a single variety is always sophisticated and elegant, while, unless done with care, a mixed bunch tends to project a "hospital gift shop" vibe.

The trick to making all flowers last longer is to trim the stems at least a couple of inches (at a diagonal angle, so the stem bottom doesn't sit flat against the bottom of the vase, restricting water supply) and remove all of the leaves that will be below the water level in the vase before immediately placing them in cool water (leaves will rot, turning the water bad more quickly). Ask the deli for the packets of "flower food" they give out, and use them. Replace the water and re-trim the stems every couple of days.

In between uses, make sure the insides of your vases get cleaned thoroughly.

When buying for someone else, I take the flowers home and remove the tell-tale plastic and "Say It With Flowers" paper-wrapping, trim the stems and re-wrap them in simple tissue paper tied with a pretty ribbon (I wouldn't call it lying, exactly, but there's no need for the recipient to know you got the "2 bunches for $12" bodega special).

My favorite tried and true corner-store varieties are tulips, spray roses (pretty in a bud vase on a nightstand), daffodils and lilac, (in Spring only), flowering branches (like dogwood or cherry blossom), and the very durable and long-lasting mums, carnations and alstroemeria (shown in the foreground in the main photo above).

Some of those flowers, like carnations and mums, have, in my opinion, gotten a bad wrap for being "cheap". I think if you take a single color (and they come in so many beautiful colors) and bunch them together in a low vase, you can create a really sophisticated looking arrangement (like the red carnations in the Martha Stewart photo above).

Another way to "elevate" cheap flowers is to place just a few buds in several small containers (like these bud vases from CB2, $2.50 each) and spread them down the length of a table or mantle. Shot glasses and egg cups work well, too.

What to look for when shopping for deli flowers:
Mostly closed buds
Firm stems
Bright green leaves

What to avoid (or, signs those buds are duds):
Dropping leaves or petals
Already mostly open buds
Soft stems (or straws or wires holding them up)
Bent or broken stems
Roses that feel squishy, not firm and meaty
Leaves or stems that are slimy or rotting
Flowers coming from a bucket with milky looking or smelly water

1 comment:

mia said...

Awe... remember when you sent me pretty pink tulips for valentines day our freshman year of college, what a nice friend you are...which reminds me do you have my new address ;-)