With just a few tips, you can enhance your local grocery store flowers (or flowers picked from your backyard) into a thoughtful arrangement that will reflect your true feelings.

Surprise your loved ones by presenting them with flowers you arranged yourself! With just a few tips, you can enhance your local grocery store flowers (or flowers picked from your backyard) into a thoughtful arrangement that will reflect your true feelings.

While I’m not an ikebana sensei or florist, I wanted to share a few considerations that I find helpful as a graduate student tight on money but who finds joy in sharing love using what I can and have. I hope that you enjoy the process of arranging the flowers while thinking about your special someone.

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1. Pick out the flowers

Before picking out flowers, do a bit of research on what some flowers and colors symbolize, then pick ones appropriate for the occasion. You’ll want to be mindful of the different contexts that exist, as this can significantly change the meaning of your gesture.

For instance, there is a term in Japanese called hanakotoba, which translates to flower words. It serves as a nonverbal communication to express emotion using the symbolic meaning of the flowers. Many of them have a western origin, such as red roses symbolizing love. However, yellow roses symbolizing jealousy within this culture may not be obvious.

You’ll want to take the time to consider the preferences of your loved ones, too. Seeking ways to incorporate their favorite colors, flowers, or scents into your arrangement may be more important than stressing too much about the symbolism they may carry.

If you are getting more than one type of flower, aim for colors that complement each other. I like to stick with one primary color and pick similar, muted, or neutral colors for other ones.

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2. Add in the greenery

Mixing in greenery will take your arrangement to the next level. You can look for some at the grocery store. You might find ones like ferns, eucalyptus leaves, grevillea, or myrtle.

If you have a garden or backyard, you might even be able to forge some! I’ve used stems of Buxus microphylla (little leaf box) for an arrangement. You can even consider adding houseplants that propagate well in water, such as the pothos and other ivies.

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3. Arrange the flowers

Before you check out at the register, think about how you would like to present your arrangement. Will it be in a vase, or will it be wrapped? Make sure you have the materials needed to put your flowers and greenery together in a way your special someone will appreciate.

If you plan on wrapping, you can use simple craft paper (or the paper grocery bag you just got) to help highlight the flowers you selected. Additionally, tying it together with some ribbon can add to the whole arrangement.

I like to cut and arrange flowers into glass jars that I collect after finishing a jar of marinara or sweet & sour sauce, too. I have plenty of those at home, so I won’t typically reach to buy a new vase. But maybe I’d want to pick up some ribbon to tie onto the jar, or a little card to attach, or chocolate, in case flowers aren't their thing.

Once you have all your bits and pieces, you’ll want to start by getting rid of that plastic wrapping with the barcode sticker that the flowers come in.

Then, inspect each flower and trim off excess leaves, especially ones on the lower end of the stem. These tend to wilt the fastest in water, so trimming them off now will make the whole arrangement easier to take care of later. When cutting the stems, you’ll want to make the flowers different lengths to allow them to set at different heights. Additionally, cutting the stems at an angle in water will help preserve the flowers.

Adjust the length of each greenery to fill the spaces below the flowers and have a few extending higher than the tallest flower. This will help achieve a balanced look.

After you tastefully wrap the flowers or put them in a vase, you are ready to present them to your loved one. Don’t forget to let them know how you thought of them as you selected and arranged the flowers yourself!

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