Flower Class: A Trip To The Grocery Store


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Look at the goodies I found at the store!

For this project I found a nice, full bunch of orange alstroemeria (Peruvian lily), a bunch of orange spray roses, and 5 pale yellow gerbera daisy stems. Many years of working with these particular flowers have taught me that they all hold up extremely well in a bouquet. I bought three bunches at $5. each, an excellent bargain for a great big flower arrangement.

By the way, if you’d like to learn more about these flowers, here’s a link to an informative site. You’ll see what wonderful colors each variety comes in and find simple tips for taking care of them: www.aboutflowers.com.


When you’re out looking for flowers, my first suggestion is to shop at a place you can trust. I trust Whole Foods and I’ve always been pleased with the freshness and selection of flowers they offer. I also like to buy at places like Costco and Safeway.

It’s always a good idea to befriend the florist at the flower counter, too. He or she can tell you what flowers are freshest, and when the new arrivals are coming in.

Next week I’ll take you with me to the spectacular San Francisco Flower Market as I buy flowers for a wedding job, and in a few weeks we’ll be taking a field trip to a farmer’s market, where one can always find amazing fresh flowers straight from the fields.

IMG_1789 - Version 2When you’re looking at the flowers on display, look at them from the top, but also pick up the bunch and look at it from the side. Older flowers will show their age with dead or dying leaves under the cellophane wrappings and you want to stay away from those.

You can also check for freshness by gently patting the flowers from the side or giving the bouquet a little shake. Generally speaking, many types (like alstroemeria and stock) will kind of rustle like crisp lettuce – which will tell you they’re full of water. I love that sound! They should not be limp. 

Next, pick out a few varieties that will look good together in the bouquet you’re envisioning, or all one kind of flower for a dramatic statement. It’s up to you – you’re in charge! This is the fun part – and they’re JUST FLOWERS, not the crown jewels!



Bring them right home, take off their wrappings and ties, separate the stems and get them in water immediately. (I hope I don’t have to tell you to never leave them in a hot car…even briefly.)



DSC_0091Take some flowers out of the water and recut their stems immediately – then put them back in your bucket. Keep repeating the process till all the stems have been cut. This is an absolutely essential step and here is why: when a flower is out of water, it perceives a threat to its survival and starts to form a seal over the base of the stem. This is its built-in protection method to keep the moisture inside its cells so it will stay alive. (A remarkable example of Nature’s beautiful wisdom.)

The longer the flowers are out of water, the more this seal travels up the stem. Once you get your flowers home, you have to remove that end part so water can flow freely up the stems to the flower heads. (Slightly warm water is always good because it travels up to the heads faster.)

Cut off at least 1” of the end of each stem– more if you can spare that much length and still have stems long enough for your container.

Cut each stem at a slant, because a diagonal cut exposes more surface for water absorption.

Now it’s time for me to dispel a myth. I often read in flower-arranging articles that each flower stem should be cut under running water. This is absolutely unnecessary and here’s why: Imagine a florist (like me) who is faced with thousands of fresh flowers she’s trying to prepare for a wedding. Would she have time to take every single individual stem and cut it under running water? Of course not! The idea is ridiculous, and I have to admit it annoys me because I think it perpetuates the myth that flowers are too fragile and delicate to be handled by an inexperienced person.

When you’re re-cutting your flower stems, just use a good, sharp clipper so you get a clean cut, snip them and place them back in water right after you cut them. Trust me, they will be fine.

Another important point to remember: you need to strip all the flower’s leaves that will be below the water line of your vase. This is really critical to the flower’s longevity, because any leaves submerged in the water will decay quickly and pollute the water, causing your beautiful flowers to wilt and die much sooner.


Whatever container you decide to use for your arrangement, one more factor is crucial to the flowers’ ongoing freshness: you must make sure the container is very clean. If you’ve used the same vase for flowers previously, there’s a good chance there is still some faint scummy residue left inside – and if there is, it will contaminate your new bouquet and cause it to wilt sooner.

I always wash my flower vases in the dishwasher if I can. Otherwise, I wash them with bleach, hot water and dish soap to kill any bacteria that might be there.

DSC_0230For this arrangement, I chose a large, heavy white ceramic pitcher I purchased recently at HomeGoods. I could not resist it because I happen to love white pitchers, and although this one looked expensive, when I saw that it was only an unbelievable $7.99, I couldn’t possibly resist!



DSC_0019DSC_0022 Because the opening of the pitcher is not too wide, after trimming all the stems, I popped that    bunch of alstroemeria inside and they arranged themselves.


(Alstroemeria have lots of green leaves surrounding their blossoms, too, so I didn’t have to add any other greenery.)




My first idea was to simply show you a big pitcherful of those gorgeous orange alstroemerias (Peruvian lily)… and I admit, it looked amazing.





DSC_0028 DSC_0026But there were those pale yellow gerbera daisies staring up at me, and I thought: “Let’s see how they would look added to the bouquet.” And they went perfectly, picking up the yellow in the centers of the alstroemeria flowers.


Since the stems of the alstroemeria bunch had formed a crisscross grid inside the vase, as I continued to add more and more flower stems, the grid held them up. (We will talk about other ways to support flower stems in bouquets in future classes.)






Since adding the big daisies had made such a difference, I thought:  “I wonder how the spray roses would look in the bouquet” and in they went.


Just so you know, I usually have NO IDEA how a flower project is going to turn out. It’s almost always an “I’ll just TRY IT” process – even after all these years of arranging flowers! I hope you’ll remember that as you create your bouquets – just keep trying and experimenting till you get the feeling you’re finished.


     The sprays, as you can see, added another shape                             and another layer of bright, intense orange to the mix.

Notice that EACH STEP made a beautiful bouquet that was complete in itself! But adding more and more flowers caused the arrangement to grow richer and more complex, as each addition gave it another layer of beauty. Watching a bouquet evolve is a wonderful experience I never get tired of.

I want to emphasize that there is NO right or wrong way to do this. The delight of flower projects is that whatever materials you choose and however it turns out – it is a unique expression of YOU, and you can’t go wrong!



When I had combined all the flowers into the bouquet, I loved it — but of course, I’m always thinking: “Is there something more I can add?”

That’s when I had one of those ah-ha moments! I still had a few of the little purple stock plants from the nursery that I used in my last class, and thought: “Why not see if these will work?”

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So I cut the stock stems at the dirt line, stripped off the lower leaves and placed them in my fresh flower bouquet, to create that last magical touch I was hoping for!


If it surprises you that you can take flowers off a growing plant and use them in a cut bouquet, it’s just another example of thinking creatively and exploring options. Think about it: those cut flowers you buy at the store were growing on plants just a few days ago! In fact, when I buy bunches of that beautiful spicy-scented stock at the flower market, the roots are often still attached at the base of the stems, because the flowers have been pulled right out of the soil.


I hope you will always remember that this is supposed to be FUN! Nobody is looking over your shoulder, so try to put aside your “expectations” and just play! The only way to become more comfortable with flowers is to spend time with them! Pick them up, create something, feel their beautiful vibrations, and I’ll say it one more time: have FUN!


Keep your bouquet away from direct sun and drafts. If you want to go to the effort of moving it to a cool place at night, the bouquet will last longer.

Change the water every 2-3 days; this will also keep your bouquet fresh much longer. (You can add more flower food if you’ve been using it.)

A few drops of household bleach in the bouquet water is also very helpful in killing harmful bacteria that will shorten the life of your arrangement. (This is especially true for some flower types like stock.)


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In my next class, I will show you some fun things I did with the vegetables I brought home with my flowers – proving that     you don’t always have to eat your veggies!





4 thoughts on “Flower Class: A Trip To The Grocery Store

  1. Loved your ideas. Can’t wait to try them. I can’t show my results because I don’t know how to attach pictures to facebook. Everyone says use your smart phone but I don’t have one. Larry is the photographer in our family.


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