Monday, July 4, 2011

Cheap and Easy Flowers

There's just something about flowers that makes me happy. I rarely used to buy them because I was trying to save a buck or two, but for a special pick-me-up or when I'm entertaining on the weekends, I like to buy some flowers to spruce the apartment up a bit and make it look like I'm relaxed and fabulous (when anyone who knows me knows I'm a mess!). In fact, I've realized over the years that flowers can be one of the cheapest and easiest ways to pull your apartment together and bring a smile to your face.

In New York, I have found that while everything is outrageously expensive, two things are for some reason cheaper here than anywhere else: manicures and fresh flowers. (One reason might be that I don't think the concept of bodegas selling flowers has hit the Midwest yet, but I digress.) For just $10, you can get your nails painted or you can buy two dozen roses. 10 bucks is all you need to look like you tried juust enough. It doesn't get any better than that.

And so I bring to you my lazy and budget-conscious guide to flowers.
Cheap and Easy Flowers Option 1: Store-bought Roses/Peonies/Tulips/SunflowersUsually I buy roses, chop the ends off and plop them in a vase. This seems easy enough. But a horrible thing happens a few days later: they die. And when they die, they look sad. And when you empty the water out, it stinks. Sometimes you can get a whole week out of the roses; but sometimes it's only a day or two (one trick to keep flowers alive a bit longer is to put some seltzer or any carbonated drink in the water - something about the bubbles helps). So to keep the roses flowing, you have to keep buying. Let's say $10/week x 4 weeks = $40/month to have your living room blooming with lovely roses. (Cheap and Easy Flowers Option 1a and b: In the spring, you can do this with tulips, too! Peonies in May/June! And sunflowers after that!)

(The above photo is peonies in a Simon Pearce vase.)

Based on where I've lived, these are my favorite places to shop for flowers - just walk out your door and explore what's around you! Favorite places to buy flowers on Upper East Side: Grace's on 70th & 3rd; on Upper West Side, either the KC Deli on 74th & Amsterdam or the florist next to the dry cleaners on Amsterdam between 73rd and 74th.

Cheap and Easy Flowers Option 2: Store-bought Orchid
A few weeks ago, I ran out to buy some flowers to put in our guest room (my uncle was our first guest and we wanted to make it pretty!), and I was horribly disappointed. My usual flower spot (Grace's on 70th & 3rd - cash only) was completely blocked with a huge annoying street fair, and I ended up settling on a $7 bunch of sunflowers, but it just didn't feel right. Much to my amazement (and annoyance, as I'd juuust bought those sunflowers), I turned around to check out what all the street fair fuss was about and spotted something beautiful: ORCHIDS. EVERYWHERE. (Two notes: 1) I traditionally despise street fairs and 2) I learned that this was the 2nd Avenue Street Fair, which for now takes place on 3rd Avenue due to 2nd Avenue Subway construction). Back to the flower... there was one orchid man holding court at his stall, and these orchids were gorgeous - and popular! (We're talking swaaarms of old ladies hunched over their walkers waving their hands for a moment of attention from this orchid whisperer. "Hmm," I thought. "I've always loved orchids.... but aren't they expensive?" It turns out I was wrong! For just $12, I bought a beautiful orchid (I had to wait my turn behind all those pushy old ladies who had apparently been waiting WEEKS to see this man). It was a very New Yorky moment, and I was pleased with my loot (even though I still had those less-than-stellar sunflowers). I chose to forgo the $5 cachepot that the orchid man was offering, and instead I put my new purchase in a fabulous mustard yellow cachepot that my favorite professor, Professor Kritzman, and his wife gave to Matt and me for our wedding (I mistakenly called it an urn in my thank you to him and was quickly corrected: it's a cachepot.)

Anyway, the moral of the story is this: I bought the orchid on June 4. Today is JULY 4. That's four weeks of flower freshness, and the orchid STILL looks fabulous. All you have to do is add a little water once a week (don't water the leaves) and cross your fingers. I think there's more to it, but I'm taking an if-it-ain't-broke-don't-fix-it mentality.

I think I got a steal of a deal by buying it at the fair, but I've checked around at bodegas and grocery stores, and it seems orchids tend to run around $20-$40 (I hear Whole Foods and Trader Joe's both sell nice and reasonably priced ones). Let's call it $20 for our equation here. Considering mine shows no sign of aging after 4 weeks, I'd venture to say it will last 2 months (again, fingers crossed). $20/orchid DIVIDED BY 2 months = $10/month for beautiful flowers in your home (less if the thing lasts longer).

I am particularly partial to the orchid because I don't have to run around acquiring and arranging flowers before company shows up. I get to enjoy it all week long (it's a lovely surprise after a long day at work). And I could even have an unexpected guest and surprise them with a fabulous and seemingly put-together apartment, full of orchids and cheer.

So there you have it. $10-$40/month for beautiful flowers... and you barely have to lift a finger. Lovely, low-budget flowers for lazy lasses (and lads!).


  1. This is awesome... - Kate P

  2. It's so true, outside of New York it is impossible to find a high quality cheap manicure... and good bodegas with cheap flowers and those wierd date bars.