Local florist versus online florist

When considering a florist you've found online, try to avoid those that are mere order-gatherers, taking a cut of the cost but not actually providing actual floral services to the consumer.

Signs that a company may be an order-gatherer:
• No physical address on the website.
• A different business answers the phone.
• No phone number local to the area the flowers are being sent.
• Unusual fees.

Signs of a reputable florist:
• Has an address and a phone number local to where you're sending the flowers.
• Offers a money-back guarantee on their flowers.
• Has a variety of blooms to choose from, including regional and seasonal specialties.
• Can make good recommendations for what you need.

Choose the right flowers for occasion

Consider the sentiment behind the gift before you choose which flower to purchase:

Lilies, chrysanthemums, carnations and gladioli all make their way into funeral bouquets.

Lovers often send roses.

Carnations can be a friendly sentiment, as well as an option for Mother's Day.

Springtime flowers, such as daffodils, lilies, hyacinths, tulips and irises, are popular for Easter.

Christmas arrangements often feature poinsettia, holly, ivy and mistletoe.

Roses and romantic arrangements are extremely popular for Valentine's Day, one of the busiest days of the year for flower vendors.

Create a floral arrangement

Tips for arranging flowers on your own:

• Browse professional arrangements to see what flowers and colors work well.
• Handle flowers delicately. Store in a cool area.
• Have the right equipment, including floral shears or a sharp, small knife; floral preservative; vase; and floral moss.
• Buy blooms at local flower shops, grocery stores or farmers markets. To shop at a wholesale floral dealer, you may need a state-issued wholesale or retail license. Also, not all wholesalers will sell to individuals.

Care for flowers

Flowers should last at least a week. Here are tips to keep them as fresh as possible:

Run water as you trim stems diagonally to increase water absorption; cut off about an inch, using a sharp knife or scissors if you don't have floral shears. Also, trim any leaves that would be below water level, which causes rotting.

Add a packet of flower food to the water. Trim stems again, change water and add more flower food every few days, removing any wilting leaves and petals.

Place flowers away from vents, fans, a heat source or direct sunlight.

Revive wilting flowers by submerging the entire stem in warm water for about 10 minutes.

Florist costs

Floral arrangements generally start at about $30, with wedding and funeral arrangements being the most expensive.

Keep in mind when ordering flowers for a same-day delivery that most flower shops have a cut-off time, such as ordering by noon. Also, they may only offer more expensive bouquets for same-day service, in which case planning ahead can save you money.

For a special occasion or holiday, always order early to ensure availability and avoidance of extra fees.

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