Maybe it's my background in marketing, or maybe it's that I've spent a majority of my life having to be resourceful in order to make things beautiful, but I am a strong believer that presentation is everything.
Tight on money for a housewarming gift? Fill a basket with some colorful kitchen items from Marshall's, stuff with tissue paper and tie with a big beautiful ribbon, and you have a very thoughtful and useful present. Have some not-so-fun news to break to a friend? Deliver it in person with compassion and kindness and it will be received far better than a blunt message sent over text. Bottom line: The way you present something sets the tone for the person on the receiving end.
So when you're showing up for Thanksgiving, or to your neighbor's dinner party, or to a good friend's birthday brunch...
A) NEVER show up empty handed
B) Take a few extra minutes to make those tacky cellophane wrapped flowers look like they came straight from the florist (but for half the cost).
Pick Your Flowers
Head down to your local grocery store and pick out two to three bunches of flowers. I like getting a variety of flower types, all in the same color scheme so they coordinate together.
If you buy a pre-arranged bunch (I usually like to grab one of these) make sure it has some greenery -- this will come in handy when assembling your arrangement.
Trader Joe's has an excellent flower selection, but if you don't have one nearby, any Ralphs or Vons will do just fine (I got the ones pictured from Ralphs).
Some flowers will 'age better' than others. Carnations, Gladiolus, Chrysanthemums and Alstroemeria (all pictured below) are flowers that will last a little while and make for GREAT bouquet fillers.
Sometimes you can score these variations in the discounted flower section at the grocery store. Didn't know this section existed? Well it does (in most major chains), usually back near the florist/balloon table. They discount the flowers that aren't selling fast enough - the ones they need to get rid of. Save a few pennies by buying a few longer-lasting stems here, without sacrificing the lifespan of your bouquet!
You can also gather some greenery from your yard. My sweet cousin in Portland introduced me to the term 'urban foraging' (there are tons of Rosemary bushes in her neighborhood so she would snip a sprig (or six) for a dinner recipe) -- the term stuck and I now apply it to flower arrangements! So snip some lush leaves off a bush or a couple branches off your olive tree to elevate your arrangement.
What Else You'll Need
Brown craft paper (I ordered a large roll from Amazon a couple years back and it has worked as wrapping paper over several holiday seasons and has come in handy for countless flower arrangements)
Twine / cotton string
Ribbon of your choice
Plastic cone-shaped bag they give in the floral section at the grocery store, to catch any water
Put it Together
1) Start by unwrapping all the flowers you have to work with. I like to put the taller greenery in the back -- letting some of it spill over to either side, and then layer in some of the more prominent flowers. Fill in towards the front with the smaller blooms.
2) Keep one word in mind while arranging: Balance! You want to mix in the flower types so they are not symmetrical, but balanced as far as weight/bulk and color on each side. Evenly mix in the colors you are using, while placing taller stems in the back -- gradually fading down to the shorter stems in the front. Think of it like stadium seating. You want to be able to see each pretty flower -- no one bloom should block the one behind it.
3) Remember that you can't mess it up. This isn't a serious activity (we are playing with flowers here), so have fun with it and get a little creative. You can do no wrong!
3) Once your flowers are arranged (above) trim the stems so they are even at the bottom and place the plastic bag over them to keep them moist. When I arrange the night before, I'll put a tiny bit of water in the bag and keep the arrangement upright until I deliver them the next day.
4) Next, cut a rectangular piece of brown craft paper, and place the flowers on it diagonally (see picture below). The top corner should lay behind the tallest flower in the back (this will support the arrangement and keep things in place). The bottom corner should extend about 4 inches past the stems.
5) Fold the right corner of the paper down at an angle. It doesn't have to be exact, but you want the paper to make a steeper point at the top, so when you fold the sides around the arrangement, they won't cover up too many of your pretty blooms.
6) Next wrap both sides around the plastic bag - making sure to cover all of it. If some is still poking through, just cut a vertical slit in the visible plastic and fold back the sides under the brown paper.
7) Fold up the bottom (towards the back of the bouquet) and tie with string or twine. Add a decorative ribbon if that's the look you're going for.
And that's it! Super simple, quick and will be sure to delight the lucky recipient. Oh and the best part? They can just pop these bad boys into a vase because you've already trimmed and positioned the stems into a beautiful and *balanced* arrangement.
Main photo by Carrie Vines Photography