Christmas is often referred to as the most wonderful time of the year, but I think the best holiday is Valentine's Day. I love the fun decorations, all of the sweet treats, and a reason to treat myself to a beautiful bouquet of roses. Of course, I always support my local florist, but because I buy cut flowers quite often, I wanted to find a way to help out a small business while not blowing a good portion of my paycheck on arrangements. The solution is to buy flowers from your florist, but not have them arranged. "The industry standard is to charge around 30% for an arranging fee," says Kerrie Buettner, owner and floral designer of Every Bloomin' Thing in Iowa City, Iowa.
I'm not a professional florist, so I asked Buettner and Debra Prinzing, the producer behind Slow Flowers, an online directory of suppliers of local and domestic blooms, for help on how to create a beautiful arrangement.
Because it's Valentine's Day, I'm featuring roses in my arrangement; they come in my favorite color (pink) and symbolize love, so they're perfect for the holiday. But, be aware that not all roses are the same. Garden roses, which you'll find at your local florist, not at your grocery store, are bigger and have a higher petal count, Buettner explains. Prinzing often uses different varieties of David Austin roses that she grows herself in her arrangements. "Garden roses are not long-lived, which makes them all the more special," Prinzing says. "Enjoy them for the moment; for a few days. And enjoy watching the natural progression of older petals floating down to your tabletop or mantel as the arrangement ages."
You can choose to arrange with all roses or a variety of blooms. It's up to you how many flowers you buy. Of course, the more blooms in the vase, the more bountiful it will look. As a rule of thumb, "Stick to odd numbers," Buettner says. When you buy your flowers, get them into room-temperature water a soon as possible. Then, select your vase; I prefer a modern version ($50, Wayfair). Fill it with room-temperature water, and add half of a packet of flower food ($17 for 200, Amazon). You might have heard of some watering hacks that say aspirin or vodka can be used to help your flowers live longer, but there's no evidence they have much effect, so stick to the flower food. Before you place your flowers in the vase, cut your stems with a pair of sharp pruners ($13, The Home Depot). You can vary the lengths of your stems however you'd like to make the display interesting. Buettner says your flowers should be 1 to 1 1/2-feet high in a vertical bouquet.
Prinzing recommends stripping the lower foliage off of each stem. "It's nice to leave one leaf stem near the flower head to add some contrast in your arrangement or bouquet," she explains. If your roses have thorns, use a rose stripper ($29 for two, Amazon) to remove them carefully. "To arrange roses only, vary the bloom size and stem length to create a bouquet with depth and shape," Prinzing says. "To arrange roses with other flowers, place the roses in the vase first; then add annuals, herbs, foliages, bulb flowers in between the roses. Use the same technique of varied heights of stems," she adds.
For my first arrangement, I used dusty millers, white hydrangeas, light pink garden roses, tulips, leatherleaf ferns, and monte casinos, thanks to recommendations from Buettner. After I had everything arranged, I tied a bow made from pink sheer ribbon ($5, Michaels) around the vase for an extra pretty touch.
Of course, cut flowers aren't like your houseplants, and they will only last about a week or so, Buettner says. To keep your blooms looking their best, "Change your water every day," Buettner recommends. "And every three days, give the stems a fresh cut. It opens up the stem like a straw," she adds. If you use a hydrangea as I did, you can submerge it in water if the flowers start to wilt. Enjoy your arrangement while it lasts, and when it's time for a fresh bouquet, check out what's available at your florist, and put together another beautiful display.