Photo: ThinkstockBy Amber Kallor
Don't Buy on the Wrong Day
Many retailers receive their flower shipments on Friday mornings (in preparation for the weekend rush) and Mondays (when they need to replenish stock), but you should get to know the clerk who stocks the flowers at your local supermarket or corner store, who can tell you the exact delivery days, says entertaining expert Matthew Mead.
Aside from wilted petals and dry leaves, an easy way to determine a bouquet's freshness is to look at the bottom of the stems. Just as with asparagus, you should see white and green fibers in the center. Any brown or mushiness means the flowers have been sitting in stale water for a few days, says Meredith Waga Perez, owner of Belle Fleur in New York City.
Photo: ThinkstockEncourage Shy Buds to Open Up
Opting for flowers that haven't bloomed means you'll be able to enjoy them for longer, but it can take some varieties (like the hybrid tea rose, the class most commonly found in grocery stores) up to six days to fully open, says Beth Smiley of the American Rose Society.
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While putting flowers in a sunny window will speed up the process, Waga Perez says it can make the petals soft and cause them to wilt. It's best to keep the stems in warm water that contains Floralife (the powdered flower food that comes with most bouquets) and put the arrangement in a cool place away from direct rays. For bulb varieties that follow the light (like tulips), she recommends placing them directly under a chandelier or tall lamp to prevent the heads from drooping and to keep the plant growing straight up. If your flowers have woody stems (like forsythia), a vase containing equal parts seltzer and tap water will maintain the pH these varieties require, says Mead.
You know to cut about an inch off the bottom of each stem when you get a bouquet home, but to extend the shelf life of your arrangement, each day following, recut about a quarter of an inch off the stems and change (not just top off) the water.
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Photo: Courtesy of Matthew Mead Skip the Middleman
Many florists receive their flowers directly from farms within two days of being cut (which explains their higher price). The premade bouquets that you see in supermarkets, however, are assembled by a third party in large plants off-site and spend more time in transit. And often, old flowers are mixed with new ones, says Waga Perez. To get more flowers for your money and guarantee their freshness, buy single-variety bunches that are more likely to have been picked at the same time. Carnations, which can seem cheap in an arrangement, look like luxurious, ruffled fabric when grouped alone in a tight cluster, says Waga Perez. Not to mention they're readily available all year, are affordable (about 30 cents a stem) and can last up to two weeks. Daisies, pincushion chrysanthemums and hydrangeas (a flower easily grown in greenhouses) are also hardy, budget-friendly options, says Mead.
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