I don’t know about you, but I used to buy fresh flowers from the supermarket all the time, just to brighten up the house/my home office. Then the recession hit and I began bypassing the floral department. Still, life is better with flowers in it so I’m determined to bring them back and get the most for my still-in-the-recession money. For help, I talked with Lilee Fell, the owner of Lilee Fell Flowers, a floral design company in Bridgehampton, N.Y. Whether you’re buying flowers for yourself or bringing along a bunch as a hostess gift, Lilee’s tips can help you get more bang for your buck—and your bouquet.
Know the signs of freshness. Most cut flowers make quite a trek before landing in any supermarket or florist. “Roses travel for two to three weeks and peonies travel for a month,” Fell says, just as an example. They can all look good. Meanwhile, little do you know they’re on their last leg because on top of the travel time, they’ve been sitting in the store for weeks. To buy flowers with the longest lifespan from your end, give stems a squeeze. If they’re turgid, you’ve got a fresh bunch. If they’re soft, they’re goners. And eyeball the greenery. There should be no yellow leaves.
Prep the stems. Once your flowers are home, snip the stems on an angle. “Cutting allows flowers to drink the water you put them in,” Fell says. Then de-leaf the stems before putting the flowers in a vase. Why? Submerged greenery is a bacteria breeding ground, which can shorten the lifespan of your bouquet, Fell says. Slimy leaves aren’t pretty to witness either. Both tactics—snipping and de-leafing—trump using the preservative packet that may come with the flowers you buy, Fell says.
Change the water. To keep your flowers alive longer, change the water every other day and cut the stems again too, so the drinking process can continue. Florists will do the same so keep in mind that short stems are another sign of older flowers or those that have traveled far, Fell says.
Weed out the dead stuff. Some blooms, especially in mixed bouquets, don’t last as long as others. That’s OK. Just pick out what’s gone to help preserve the flowers that remain. Feel free to fill in with flowers or green stuff from your yard such as hostas or even chives from your garden.
Which flowers make the best hostess gift? Fell suggests an inexpensive bunch of supermarket tulips, which are always a winner, especially if they’re in season. For flowers for yourself, “buy what you love,” she says, which are always the best buy, even if they’re not the cheapest.