friday flowers

Ever wonder why your home flower arrangements never look like this? I think it’s because the “how-to’s” out there never seem to give away the REAL secrets florists use. Enter today’s “the great thing about living in New York is …” there are cheap flowers available all over. And we have a huge wholesale flower district down on 28th Street where nobody asks to see your vendor’s license as long as you pay cash. It’s amazing. So I guess that’s two great things about living in New York.  Here’s how to use them to make party-worthy floral arrangements anytime on the cheap.

First off, truly lush arrangements require a LOT more flowers than you think. I love Martha Stewart’s model of letting you choose an arrangement online and order the flowers and vase to make it, but the truth is she almost never sends enough to fill the vase. Today’s post is about getting that full look without buying 50 stems.

A great way to do it is to use one or more hydrangea heads as the base. This example uses just one hydrangea, but you can bunch as many together as you want to fill bigger containers. Let’s start with these:



These babies cost me $17 around the corner from my apartment.

You’ll want a vase with a neck somewhere between one-third  to half as big around as your hydrangea head. Trim off all the leaves and cut the stem on an angle. The bottom edge of the hydrangea should rest right at the top edge of the vase without sinking in, like this:



You’ll also want to cut the woody stems to split vertically like this:



That’ll let the flower drink more and last longer. Sometimes  I’ll even smash a really hard stem with a hammer to split it apart.

Now for the fun part. Take whatever additional flowers you want and separate out all the stems and remove all foliage. You don’t want any leaves below the water line because they’ll rot, cloud your water, smell bad and kill the arrangement before it’s time (how’s that for incentive?) Plus, you’re going to want the heads to nestle right into the hydrangea. Extra leaves will just interfere. Here I picked two different mums. I love the look of green and white together and at $5 a bunch, these babies are C-H-E-A-P. Here’s my pile of flowers ready to go:
After you’ve stripped the leaves and cut the stems to the right length, start inserting the flowers into your hydrangea. If things get a little stuck, try spinning the stem between your thumb and first finger. That little bit of motion will likely help the stem find its way down.



Work your way around the hydrangea with an eye to balancing both weight and color. A good rule of thumb is to work in odd numbers. A single flower head or groups of three will look better than a pair. (Why? No clue. It just works.) And here you have it:



The fantastic thing about a hydrangea base is you can use just about anything in it, from roses to sweet peas, calla lilies, bits of greenery, even fruits like kumquats. In big arrangements, even whole lemons or limes are amazing. Just spear them with a wooden skewer like you’d use for a kabob and cut the stick to stem length. You can also vary the hydrangea. There are gorgeous reddish ones available on 28th Street in Manhattan if you live here, and pinks and blues aren’t that hard to find. Another great thing about using hydrangea as the base is that you can either integrate the ruffled petals into your arrangement for texture and color, or almost completely hide them. Can you find the hydrangea in this bridal bouquet?


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