Buds on a budget
If you're going to splurge on flowers, opt for one of these longer-lasting blooms.
When we told Elizabeth Cronin, owner of Asrai Garden (1935 W North Ave, 773-782-0680) that we were looking for affordable ways to fill our home with flowers, she was blunt: “To get the flowers that last longer, you have to pay more.” Case in point: A couple of weeks ago she was working with a bride on a very tight budget. The bride turned to Asrai for her centerpiece and decided to make the rest of the arrangements herself, using flowers from a gourmet grocery store in Bucktown. She picked up the flowers two days before her wedding…and they died the next day. Grocery stores may have less-expensive options, but because they buy their stock in bulk and the flowers sometimes sit around in storage for a few days before being sold, they typically last only about three days. “You pay more at flower shops because [their arrangements] usually last twice as long,” Cronin says. So, if you want fresh flowers in your house (or if you’re picking some out for Mother’s Day this weekend) you might as well splurge. Here are some options for getting the most bang out of your bud:
Before you buy a bunch of flowers, Marion Parry, owner of A New Leaf (1645 N Wells St, 312-642-1576), suggests thinking about adding more greenery to your vase. Leaves like oats grass (9) and horsetail (3) will last for up to three weeks and also can help bring the focus to the flowers on display. Parry also suggests buying fresh eucalyptus (1) ($5–$10), which has a refreshing scent and looks pretty for more than a week.
Single and loving it
Another tip from Parry is to decorate with one simple, striking flower in your vase. “One beautiful flower can say it all,” she says. She cites the freesia (6) and bird-of-paradise (around $3.50 per stem) as examples that really can stand out. Kangaroo paws (5) ($3.50 per stem) also look good on their own and stay fresh for about ten days. “They also dry really well,” Parry adds, noting that the earth-toned flower will still look decorative even as it dries. Billy balls (7) also last longer and dry well.
Besides the opportunity to buy giant jars of mayo, purchasing a membership to wholesale store Costco (2746 N Clybourn Ave, 773-360-2053) gives you access to pretty great deals on flowers. They’re a bargain because the surplus store employs its own growers. For example, a 24-stem rose centerpiece arrangement only costs $15. The best deal? The garden bunches ($9), which include a variety of blooms like tulips (8) and carnations, and according to a store employee, can last for a couple of weeks with the proper care.
’Tis the season
And, of course, one way to ensure a better deal on flowers is to buy them during the appropriate season. Star of Bethlehem (2) is one example of a spring flower and Cronin says daffodils (4) also really flourish this time of year. Looking ahead, flowers in season during the summer (late June through early September) include freesia, iris and hydrangea.