Last weekend, I wandered into a flower shop to buy blooms for a friend’s birthday. Everything was beautiful and lush and wild, and I was happily putting together a lovely bouquet—until I realized that peonies cost $14. Per stem.
I love the simple, everyday pleasure of flowers. I treat my apartment, each week, to a bunch of feverfew or ranunculus or whatever’s in season, and I think a bouquet makes an old-fashioned, charming gift. But I have a self-imposed rule never to spend more than $10, tops. It seems low. Flowers, though, can be extraordinarily pricey—and, often, I just don’t like the looks of standard-order bouquets. (Recently I regretted spending 10 times that budget on a Mother’s Day bouquet from a florist that turned out garish, with flowers of every color in the rainbow.)
It’s very possible to create a lovely, giftable bouquet for less—and to enjoy the creativity of doing it yourself, too.
I walked out of that shop and headed straight to the source for my weekly flower treat: yes, it’s Trader Joe’s. And, with a couple of simple flourishes, I whipped together a wild summer bouquet for under $10 to present to my friend.
Here are my four steps to dress up flowers—from the grocery store, bodega, even the farmstand—to make them a bit dressier, for gifting at a birthday, shower, summer dinner party, or just because.
1. Buy flowers in all one type.
The first step to an elegant-looking bouquet? Keep it simple. Opt for one type of flower, in one color. Grocery stores often sell bunches of single types of blooms; it’ll make your bouquet look effortlessly elegant and keep costs down, too. I opted for a bunch of pale-peach gerbera daisies ($4.99) and, since I had a bit left in my budget, I added in tall, wispy green leaf filler ($2.99).
2. Unwrap, cut, and style.
When you get home, take all of the plastic wrapping and rubber bands off of the flowers (save the rubber bands for styling). Then, arrange the flowers whichever way you like. If they’re one type of flower, I prefer to arrange them at roughly the same height, with any filler poking out higher. To adjust heights, re-cut the stems on a diagonal (for maximum water absorption). When in doubt, leave the stems a little bit long—that way the recipient can cut them to whatever size vase they have. Hold the arranged bouquet in place with the rubber bands.
The real trick to gussying up grocery store blooms? Giving them an upgrade from their plastic wrapping. Find a beautiful piece of paper: It could be a square of brown butcher paper, old newsprint, a length of wrapping paper, or even—for smaller posies—a vibrant page torn from a magazine. Wrap it around your flowers in the shape of a cone and use clear tape or staples to secure it in place, at the top and bottom. For this bouquet, I used a spare length of wrapping paper that I loved and saved: cream with black checks. I like to position the flower heads in one corner of the paper, then wrap, to help display and support them.
4. Add a ribbon.
For an optional final touch, tie a ribbon around the paper. (You can cut two unobtrusive holes in the back of the cone and thread the ribbon through to keep it from slipping off.)
Voila. A thoughtful, personalized bouquet. My total, this time? $7.98.