Keeping a Rosy Outlook, or, Buying Budget Blooms - Part 2

Okay, so here we are back with the blooms! First off, one of the best bargains to be found for flowers is at your local grocery store & at the top of the heap would be Trader Joe's. If you are lucky enough to live close to a TJ's, run, don't walk! Probably the best thing about this store is the high quality of goods on offer at a relatively low price, something people don't realize what with all the organic & imported fancies it stocks. People assume it is like Whole Foods, and I've got a bit of a beef with Whole Foods because of its high prices and snooty-patootie attitude. TJ's on the other hand is always warm and inviting. It's not without some high-ticket items to be sure but as I always say, at Trader Joe's something is usually either really expensive --or a $1.98.

The flower selection at TJ's is a cut above your average grocery store. Just note the lovely roses pictured: they are from the bouquet I bought for $3.99 (see my post Keeping a Rosy Outlook, or, Buying Budget Blooms - Part 1 for more on that). A word of caution, however, grocery store bouquets often smack of cheapness aesthetically, and you know why? More often than not they're chock full of those "filler plants," you know the baby's breath, the ferns, the ginormous blades of grass, flowers that are less expensive than the bouquet's "headliners". Even my TJ's bouquet had these little pink-purple tiger lily-like things plumping up the presentation.

Style rule: one type of flower on its own without further embellishment is always more elegant than a mixture. Those ornate sprays of myriad blossoms that always festoon wealthy homes in movies, no offense, smack of "dentist waiting room" when replicated in the average home. Worse yet are those silk & plastic arrangements, something de rigueur in the cookie cutter McMansions of the noveau-not-really-that-riche set. A single daisy in the right vessel is a million times more luxurious than the largest silk bouquet. So what to do with your budget blooms? Break it up! Either toss the filler all together or make a separate bouquet. That's what I did with the lily-like things that came with my roses. I sorted them out & put them in a glass all their own--they were beautiful by themselves! And I ended up with 2 bouquets for $3.99. Score!

Style rule: fat flowers make for a fab presentation. Flowers that have densely packed petals and a lush roundness of shape when closed have an innate richness and visual interest about them. And fat is definitely where it's at if your budget only permits a bloom or two. My favorites in this category are pink peonies and  yellow ranunculus (ranunculae???) as pictured:

 Light pink peonies, almost fully open.

This variety of ranunculus (There are many flowers that fall under this name, the genus also includes the humble buttercup!) is a feast for the eyes. I prefer yellow ones --they're like bright blobs of sunshine & a surefire way to beat the Shoestring Blues.

Two other great sources of inexpensive flowers:

  • Farmers' markets at the end of the day --prices often go down with the sun!
  • The clearance rack at your local greenhouse. This is a great way to nab bargain perennials, especially near the end of summer. Many greenhouses carry plants that look a little worse for wear for next to nothing. If you're looking for plants to add to your garden, snap them up! They may look ratty now, but just wait for next year. I once bought a large type of white tulip that looked like it was at death's door for about 89 cents, planted it in my mother's garden and next summer, BAM! it was the alpha-bloom of the flower bed.

And now before I go, here's a few more of Shoestring Sally's style rules:

Play around with containers. A couple of peonies popping out of an old-fashioned sugar bowl can be a visual delight. Goodwill is an excellent place to find odd-piece china & glass wear for pennies.

An arrangement of large Gerber daisies always looks better when all one color. I don't know what it is, but this is one flower where uniformity of color definitely looks better. Red, yellow, pink --pick your poisons, just don't mix them.

Don't pooh-pooh carnations. This poor flower gets a bad rap. It's considered so pedestrian and true, it is just about the cheapest flower going price-wise, but carnations can look positively charming if presented right. First off, avoid the dyed varieties & stick with plain white. Also cut them short & place them in a low container (see above sugar bowl example). Again the densely-packed quality created by a small container elevates even the simplest flower to simply elegant. And truthfully, while I am attempting to pop with a pin the balloon of floral snobbery here, I must confess long-stemmed carnations just scream "Break a leg tonight! Love, Mom & Dad". Totally eighth grade choir concert!   

And of course, re-cut the stems & change the water every day!!! You want to get the most bang for your buck, right? This simple rule can add days to your bouquet's shelf-life. Just be sure to always cut the stems at an angle (the water's absorbed better) and remove all leaves that fall below the waterline, as they typically rot & breed flower-withering bacteria. Not fun!

So with that, enjoy your blooms, one & all, and take care!
~Shoestring Sally 


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