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Bloom and Gloom: Flower Tips for the Dire Economy

Laura Dowling
By Laura Dowling
Posted on Mar 02,2009
Filed Under Fashion , Local Style,

Throughout history, flowers have been associated with exaggerated exuberance:  think of the lavish confections of roses and lilacs in the court of Versailles, the Dutch tulip mania in the 1600s, or the Victorian-era obsession with hidden meanings of flowers and florid floral décor.  

Contemporary floral trends, while decidedly more muted and sedate, still celebrate flowers as a desirable element for marking life’s special occasions – or for just enjoying everyday life. It seems that whether it’s an era of economic boom or bust, flowers transcend practical considerations to become an object of fancy and desire.  

Yet, the relentlessly bad economic news can put a damper on even the most enthusiastic flower aficionado.  After all, flowers are expensive and ephemeral and are easy to dismiss as a frivolous and ultimately wasteful expense.  

But if you subscribe to the notion that flowers have intangible qualities that provide charm, beauty and happiness, the challenge becomes how to integrate them – stylishly and inexpensively – into your recession-era lifestyle.  Here are some flower tips to remind you that spring is on the way and that the economy will get better soon.

1.  Buy seasonal flowers.  The least expensive flowers are always the ones you can buy locally in season from the farmers’ market or from the grocery store.  This time of year, the daffodils and tulips make their debut, providing a cost-effective, heart-lifting glimpse of spring.  In addition, spring branches are always a good buy, offering high impact and longevity for a relatively low price.  Look for quince, pussy willow and curly willow tips to display now and over the next few week as the buds unfold.  

2.  Use a single flower judiciously.  It’s a well-known fact that one carefully selected focal point flower conveys more impact than a jumbled collection of uninspiring flowers or arrangements.  The key to getting a sleek, modern look is to invest in a single, elegant flower such as a phaleonopsis orchid or Dutch hydrangea, and present it creatively – in a beautiful container, slanted on an angle, or in pairs or groupings. 

3.  Use less expensive flowers en masse.  On the other hand, if you admire unabashed extravagance and want an opulent look for less, a good strategy for stretching your floral dollar is to use large amounts of inexpensive flowers (e.g., daisies, carnations, etc.) in a large, monochromatic bouquet.  

4.  Add fruits and vegetables to flower arrangements.  A top tip from L’Ecole des Fleurs, the French flower school in Paris, is to incorporate fruits and vegetables in floral arrangements.  Fresh seasonal produce adds color and bulk – as well as a contemporary touch – to traditional bouquets and is an economical alternative to flowers.  Use vegetables such as green beans, carrots, or celery to create organic containers and add seasonal produce, (e.g., apples, artichokes, or lemons) as accents in flower arrangements.  Unusual elements, including potatoes and onions, can create surprising, yet effective, results.  

5.  Make a personal statement with flowers.  The most rewarding aspect of having flowers in the home is when you create something original, special and beautiful for yourself.  Look around your house and garden to locate materials and found objects that can be incorporated in your designs.  These elements, ranging from snippets of ribbon and paper to tiled fruit, can be used to craft bouquets that bring natural beauty and personal style to your interior décor.

Laura Dowling is Principal of Intérieurs et Fleurs in Old Town, and Instructeur Associé of L’Ecole des Fleurs, Paris.  She creates floral décor for glamorous events in the nation’s capital and lectures regularly on flowers in the French style.  On March 6, she will conduct a lecture and demonstration at the Philadelphia Flower Show, the nation’s oldest and largest flower and garden event.

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