Luckily, my man knows that I do not like roses, especially red ones, so he doesn't have to shell out $45 for a dozen of droopy, battered ones on February 13th. Many years ago, I did buy into the romantic notion of the whole thing, but that was only after years of going without a valentine.
Nowadays my biggest objection to roses is that I find them hard to arrange in an attractive manner. You really have to have a lot of filler, and good filler is hard to come by unless you are my mother, and you've discovered your backyard is chock full of a variety of plants that work for all seasons. She is a maverick flower arranger. I believe her talent breaks down like this: one-half innate eye for balance and composition, one-quarter amazing collection of one-of-a-kind vases, urns, teapots, and loving cups, one-eighth access to unexpected filler, one-eighth pure magic.
I go on and on about filler because I believe it can make or break an arrangement. I have been favoring minimalist, one or two color dome arrangements for quite some time, but I received a mixed bouquet for Valentines Day that really rocked my world. Here it is:
We've got red carnations, white mums, orange roses, yellow snapdragons, purple irises, orange and pink tulips, and even a couple astromeria. So springy, so much for the eye, and so lovely. But, to get it there, I had to toss all the baby's breath and evergreen fill to take it out of the context of a florist's idea of a mixed bouquet. Really, what are they thinking? Maybe they are thinking the bouquet looks bigger and they can charge more money...
I just want to reiterate that it is totally okay to rip apart a bouquet that you receive as a gift. In fact, unless you think it's utterly perfect and gorgeous, you really should take it apart. Luckily most bouquets that are hand delivered by loved ones don't come in their own vases, so you have an excuse to cut the stems down to an intimate height that allows for eye contact at the dinner table.
I have to thank my Aunt Rose, the florist of the family, for this lesson. I visited her for a week once when she was doing all the flowers for a huge university event. On Monday, I gasped as she chopped 85% of the stems off of the flowers in her floral buckets in order to form delightful tea cup arrangements. Somehow it seemed against the rules, like you were shaving the head of the flower. Not so! By Tuesday night I was asking if I could get in on the action, and man, was it liberating. And that is how I discovered the first secret of the floral arts. It's all about how the height of the bloom works with your container.
Don't ever hesitate to take the florist's plain vanilla glass vase, put it in your basement, and get out your chipped aqua urn. And if you get sick of looking at those sad vases on your shelf, throw them in your back seat and return them to your nearest florist. They are happy to get them back, and you will have a fabulous arrangement that, hopefully, will be with you for weeks to come.
There are some really fabulous florists out there. But you never really know a good one by the looks of them. When you find one you like, stay loyal! For flowers in Monmouth County, NJ, no one in my mind has outdone Sunset Florist, in Ocean Township. 732-988-7455. No rearranging necessary. Do you recommend a florist? Leave it in the comment section!