Perhaps you're fancying a centerpiece for your Galentine's brunch, or want to send a signal to the hottie in the office down the hall. Or, quite possibly you see the 14th as nothing more than a Hallmark holiday, but you'll use any excuse to #TreatYoSelf. No matter the occasion, creating your own unique bouquet always trumps a last minute order from a generic online flower service or shelling out a Benjamin for organic, hand-picked wild flowers from your local artisanal "botanist." I sourced the flowers for these three chic arrangements from my trusty neighborhood corner store, but you'd never know it from the final results. Following these tips, you can do the same!
Tip 1: Judge the Merchandise
Don't let crazy swirls of cellophane or glittery wands distract you from good flower potential. Recognize that you'll be deconstructing these bouquets and ditching the scary stuff. A great mixed bouquet has three elements you should look for. The first is a "face" flower like hyacinth or billowy garden roses. The second is bulky fillers like leafy branches, palm fronds, or pussy willow. The third is smaller blooms that play a supporting role to the face flower, like anemones or tiny budding carnations. You won't likely find all of these elements in just one pre-packaged deli bouquet. I bought three different assorted bunches and one of plain roses in order to get all of my desired ingredients. The total haul cost me $60—still a huge bargain compared to what I would have paid a florist for three arrangements.
Tip 2: Know Your Bodega Owner
...Or deli person, or grocer. I once told the owner of my corner store that he was the Michelangelo of bacon, egg, and cheese sandwiches, and we became instant BFFs. I segued into flowers, and asked what day of the week he gets fresh deliveries. Get to know your local resources and their typical assortment ahead of time, and you'll be more than prepared for special occasions.
Tip 3. Get Good Fillers
Take a close look at those filler flowers: the greens and the tall stalks that you'll use to add height and structural interest to your arrangement. Baby's breath might feel cliche, but if you cut most of the bulk away, leaving just a small tuft at the top of a thin green stem, it's a great substitute for wild flowers. A lily still encased in its bud is a sharper, more dramatic shape than the typical open bloom. Unexpected elements like these will add variety to your assortment. Look for a bouquet that includes a combination of soft, short fillers and tall, lean ones. Some stores hang on to extra leaves or fronds to accent bouquets of roses. If there aren't enough greens in the bunches you've chosen, don't be afraid to ask if you can add a few.
Tip 4: Loosen Up
If you're gung-ho for roses, steer clear of the typical crimson red. Creams and blush pinks with pale green or peach tips feel extra romantic. Buy them a day or two early and leave them near a window. Fresh from the corner store, the petals will be tight, but in a couple days they'll fall loose and romantic, as if freshly picked from an outdoor garden. You can carefully ease the petals open a bit yourself too in a pinch.
Tip 5: Consider Unconventional Vessels
Use an interesting vase that elevates your blooms without stealing the show. My new favorite thing for tabletops everywhere is Uashmama baskets. They're made from recycled paper and are washable—an eco-friendly bonus for your recipient. The texture and folds of the basket feel chic and cooler—dare I say, sexier?!—than a basic glass cylinder. Uashmamas make a pretty kitchen counter stash for fruit and bread, too. I snagged the weathered tin cup for a few bucks at a flea market, and found the copper-and-brass mug in my boyfriend's grandfather's attic (thanks, Pop!) The patina adds character and charm, further disguising the flowers' humble origins.