three Easy ways to transform supermarket flowers

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I love flowers. They have the power to soothe and uplift, inspire and enchant. Especially during dark winter months, they lift my mood and make me smile, bringing light to the gloomiest corner, catching precious rays of low winter sunlight and softly sharing their scent, evocative the coming of Spring and the promise of sweeter, warmer days ahead. There is something sensual and luxurious about a vase of unfurling petals placed casually on a kitchen table, or alongside a bottle of perfume, whether they are jewel toned roses or tender stemmed white tulips, gently escaping the bounds of their vase or bottle. 

However, a generous bunch of florist flowers is an extravagance that I can't really justify except for special occasions. I don't have a reliable flower market near me, so I buy most of my flowers from the supermarket when I do my weekly grocery shop. Sadly, lots of supermarket flowers are pretty uninspiring (bunch of orange chrysanths anyone?) but with a little love and care, and a few tricks, a rather ordinary bunch of cheap flowers can look beautiful. I'm going to tell you how!  

The short squat one

A short, squat, compact bunch is a really good way of arranging carnations, roses, peonies, dahlias and daffodils. Basically, any flower that is petal-heavy with a rigid stem will suit this. I bought all of the above flowers from Aldi, and they cost a grand sum of £4 (and I had enough carnations for another bouquet). 

  • Carnations work really well here as you can get lots of stems cheaply. Carnations have been out of fashion for a long time but a comeback is on the cards. There is something beautifully old-fashioned and feminine about them, plus they last for ages and are much sturdier than lots of other flowers. Gathered together, they are luxuriously ruffled and full of texture, plus you can get some really beautiful varieties - I particularly like nude and pale peach ones, rusty red and deep purple ones.  
  • Go for a limited palette to avoid colour overload. Above I've chosen a soft salmon/peach carnation, a deep mauve carnation and a small hot pink rose. That's enough or it will start to look a bit children's party. 
  • Choose a short vase or other vessel to hold your flowers. I've used a vintage spice pot, but an empty candle holder, a vintage glass or a large jam jar would all work. Just make sure the opening isn't too wide or you will get gaps between your flower heads, which won't look good. 
  • Strip the stems and cut them quite short, measuring the stems against the side of the vase before you cut. Be conservative to begin with - you can always cut more off the stem as you go. The flowers in the middle of your bouquet will need to be a little taller than the ones around the edge. 
  • Looking at your bouquet face on, you do not want to see any stem between the top of your vase and the flower head. If you can see stem, you need to cut shorter. 
  • You are aiming for a loose rounded bouquet with no gaps - keep adding in stems until the vase is full and the bouquet looks balanced. 
  • Flowers like carnations and roses can be opened gently with your fingers - just warm your hands and gently ruffle the petals to open them out. This is useful if some of your shop bought flowers are not yet opened and you want the flowers ready for that day. 
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The long leggy one

This is a less structured and looser bouquet than the first one, and suits flowers either with a bit more movement like tulips, dahlias, anemones, ranunculus and lisianthus (i.e. flowers with softer, flexible stems) and long elegant flowers like alstromeria, iris and freesias. The flowers above were bought from Aldi and Tesco and cost me £5. 

  • Choose a long vase with a small opening - with tall flowers, a vase with a wide opening will cause the flowers to flop over the edges and the bunch will look empty. 
  • Stick to a limited colour palette. White and green is easy (I love a white tulip) and fresh. Muted, grown up tones work well in a bunch like this, rather than bright jewel colours. 
  • Trim most of the leaves off the stems, but leave the one or two closest to the flower head. We want a bit more greenery in this bunch as it should feel wilder and messier. 
  • Starting with the more flexible flowers, cut them so that they stand a few inches above the top of the vase, but are at slightly differing heights. Don't worry about symmetry - the whole point is to avoid it looking too "done" or overthought. Next, add in the rigid stems, placing them in between the other flowers, so that the bouquet is balanced. 
  • Adjust the heights of the flowers so that there is plenty of variation within the bouquet. 
  • Some foraged twigs or leaves will completely elevate a bouquet like this. I found these beautiful trailing corkscrew willow tendrils on the ground in my local park and brought them home, and I love how they look with the flowers. They add a wild, untamed quality and stop the flowers from feeling too static. I simply eased a few strands into the vase, allowing them to trail over the sides. 

The voluptuous one

This is a soft, luscious bouquet which works really well with tender, heavy headed flowers like roses, hyacinths, tulips, stocks, hydrangeas and peonies. It should feel romantic, full and heavy, and a little decadent. Hyacinths are in season at the moment and I absolutely love their scent. I bought these, the tulips and the roses from Aldi and they cost me £4. 

  • Choose a mid-sized vase or jug for this bouquet - you can use something with a wider opening than the other bouquets. 
  • You can get away with a bit more colour variation here but just make sure the colours all complement each other and blend well . Pinks, purples and nude work well, as do whites and yellows or blues and purples. Four different colours is probably enough. 
  • Strip the stems to remove all but the tenderest of leaves (you don't want much foliage here). Cut the flowers so that they sit just above the top of the jug or vase and hang over slightly. 
  • Arrange the flowers so that you have a good distribution of the different flowers and colours, and the flowers are close to each other. This bouquet has to feel full and luxurious, so avoid gaps! 
  • I havent added any foliage to my bouquet but a bit of greenery would be good and would add a slightly wilder feel. if you do add foliage, make sure it is something soft and delicate like seeded eucalyptus, bupleurum or thalaspi. 
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Some more tips....

  • Treat pre-arranged supermarket bouquets with caution. They are often the most expensive option and can be full of flowers that you don't actually want. I rarely buy them, opting instead for one-type bouquets which I then mix with other flowers. I usually go for flowers in a single colour too, as I think they are easier to style than mixed colour bouquets. 
  • Flowers like carnations and roses can be opened gently with your fingers - just warm your hands and gently ruffle the petals to open them out. This is useful if some of your shop bought flowers are not yet opened and you want the flowers ready for that day. 
  • Forage! Adding a bit of wild to your bouquet is the easiest way to completely transform it from a boring old bunch of supermarket flowers to something special. I am always looking out for interesting bits and pieces to add to my bouquets, whether from my garden, our local park, or hedgerows and fields of our countryside walks. The following can all be combined with a cheap bunch of flowers to immediately elevate them: 
    • Trailing tendrils of climbing or rambling plants such as honeysuckle, jasmine, clematis and rose and even hops and vines- easy to find in the garden and look beautiful spilling out of bouquets. 
    • Woody herbs like thyme, rosemary and lavender -  add structure, depth and and subtle greenery to a bouquet and again they are cheap and easy to find. Softer herbs like sage and bay are also lovely. Plus they bring the most wonderful fragrance. 
    • Wild foliage - can be quite easily acquired from fields and hedgerows - straggly grasses and weeds, unripe blackberries, rose hips and wild flowers can all complement bought flowers - this bouquet is an excellent example. Cow parsley is particularly lovely added to Spring bouquets. 
    • Twigs and bendy branches - these are an effortless and cheap way to add height and drama to a bouquet and create an unfinished, wild look
    • Dried flowers, seed heads, barley and wheat. Dried stuff is massively on trend at the moment and not difficult to source from roadside verges and fields, or dry yourself at home. Combined with soft, trailing flowers like anemones and ranunculus, they look wonderful. Flowers that dry well include hydrangeas, roses, lavender, daisies and thistles.
    • Cuttings of beech, oak and birch can all look amazing with flowers and they add an unexpected element of drama to a bouquet. 
  • Some flowers are easier than others. I love the smell of them, but I am yet to see a bouquet of lilies that I like. Similarly, I would not know how to transform a bunch of hot pink gerberas or bubblegum chrysanthemums. Perhaps they could be made beautiful, but not by me. 
  • Treat baby's breath (gypsophilia) with caution. On its own it can look frothy and rather lovely, and little bottles with single stems can look beautifully minimal. With roses however (especially red or pink ones) it has a tendency to look a bit twee. 
  • Grow a small collection of useful, varied vases of differing heights and sizes. The choice of vessel is key - a standard glass vase will not suit all flowers so you need to have different vases for different styles of arrangements. 
  • For a floral arrangement on a table, little bottles and vases filled with just a couple of stems can look lovely and is an economical way to display flowers, plus it doesn't disturb people's view while they are eating! 

 

Happy floral faffing folks, and come on Spring - we're more than ready for you now! 

Mary x