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Tips for Ordering Valentine's Day Flowers

But First: An Official Doyenne Disclaimer!

January 31, 2001

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#1 Order Early, Like Today
The day before Valentine's Day is not considered early, at least not by florists, who say that February 13th is at least as bad as the 14th. To hear them tell it, even the 12th is a little late, certainly for arrangements if not for a dozen roses. The advantages to early ordering are enormous, ranging from better prices and a larger selection of flowers to more amenable, less stressed sales help. Heaven help the Californian who wakes up late on the 14th, and decides to order flowers for a friend in New York. He'll be lucky if that New York florist even answers her phone (which, come to think of it, may be a blessing in disguise).

#2 Don't Order Online; Talk to a Real Florist
Forgive my unequivocal tone, but this is not the time of year for on-line ordering. You need to speak to a real, live florist to get the most bang for your buck. You can use the internet as a Yellow Pages to locate businesses out-of-town, or ask your own trusted florist to place that long distance order for you.

Whether you're sending a mixed spring bouquet or a box of long-stemmed roses, a florist will level with you about what flowers she has in stock and which are currently looking the best. What's the point in sending ratty red roses when the florist's shop is brimming with gorgeous shades of lavender and peach? All this presupposes that you're also going to be flexible, particularly if you're putting in your order within a week of Valentine's Day. In fact, understanding as you do the pressures your florist is under, you're not only going to be flexible, but very, very nice.

#3 Know What You Want
Bearing in mind that you'll willingly make substitutions if you can't get what you want, think a few things through before ordering.

  • Have a price range in mind and be prepared to spend $15 more than you think is reasonable. (If you've only got $35 to spend, you're better off at an upmarket grocery store with its own flower vendor).
  • Decide whether you want an assortment of flowers in a box, or a vase-filled floral arrangement (flowers in a box are a good choice for a gardener; otherwise, it's a crap shoot whether the recipient will enjoy arranging flowers, let alone have a vase).
  • If you order an arrangement, choose a vase color (clear or blue glass) and a style: formal or informal.
  • Ask that the colors be kept simple (three colors, max; two is better), express any strong color likes or dislikes (either yours or your Valentine's).
  • If you want something out of the ordinary, be sure to say "No mums, no carns, no gyp". That's florist talk for chrysanthemums, carnations, and gypsophila (as in baby's breath), which all combine to spell b-o-r-i-n-g.


    #4 Reconsider Roses, or at Least Red Roses
    If it's February and you want to court romantic favor, you send roses. I won't argue with you. But at least allow me to point out the joyous optimism and financial wisdom of sending several dozen spring flowers instead (buy red tulips when the flower petals are still a little green but showing enough color to indicate what they'll be).

    And hear me out about red roses, whose attributes pale in comparison to other kinds. They are often the least fragrant, they do not last the longest, and they are guaranteed to be the most difficult to find young and fresh (tell me about it). Also, long-stemmed reds tend to live life as tight, bullet-headed buds for a week, then open and fall apart; other varities "blow open", which means they'll be half or full open within a day of two, then last for a week to ten days.

    #5 Cost and Guarantee
    When ordering from a florist, expect to spend at least $75 for a dozen, long-stemmed roses in a vase (the price will go up the closer you get to VDay). Figure you're paying at least $8 for the container and $10 delivery. You can find roses for less when shopping on-line, but if you're reading this within a week of the big event, quality is bound to plummet.

    What you can do is buy from a company that offers a 100% guarantee, one that will make good on your order if something goes wrong (lousy flowers, wrong color, late delivery, etc.). Understand that they won't be making good on anything until after this holiday, but if it means another dozen roses a few weeks later, who's the worse?

    #6 Go Ahead, Ignore my Advice, Order On-line
    If you're going to order on-line, skip the vase arrangements and order cut flowers in a box. Here's a couple of highly rated websites; just be sure to double-check that you're getting a 100% guarantee:





    And for a directory of florists, try this:


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    Copyright © 2003 National Public Radio, Washington, D.C.