We Present Our Ultimate Guide to Buying Flowers

Buying flowers is as a subjective a matter as the pictures you choose to put up on your walls, or the choice of what dish to eat and from which restaurant. The purchase is guided by personal taste, convenience, understanding and experience, not to mention budget. There are many places that you can go to buy flowers, some may fit the bill for one occasion, whilst being unsuitable for another; for example, whilst grabbing a bunch of flowers during your supermarket shop might be perfect for brightening up your home, they wouldn’t necessarily be suitable if you were wanting to make a large, romantic gesture.

Where to Buy Flowers

Although flowers are neither functional, nor necessary, billions are bought across the globe every single day. Even though they last such a relatively short time, they bring delight, joy and comfort whenever they are received. We can now buy flowers almost everywhere, from garages to airports, and from supermarkets to designer florists.

Airport Flowers

Airport shops have a reasonable range of bouquets to suit most budgets, and are designed to cater for people who have just landed and are heading off somewhere with no time to find a flower shop. They are convenient and they function a bit like fast food: the flowers will be perfectly adequate and will serve their purpose, but don’t expect to find anything of real interest.

Florist Shop Flowers

Florist shops (as with most things) can vary widely; some may be little more than greengrocers that also sell flowers. Whilst this may be a handy option, it’s worth bearing in mind that ripening citrus fruits give off ethylene gas, which poisons flowers, so keeping them in close proximity is not a good idea. The stock found in these shops is often of the market reject quality, and is possibly not as fresh as the flowers that are sold on the side of the road. Unless you really have no other choice, then these types of shop are best avoided.

On the next rung on the ladder is the traditional high street florist shop, often frequented by long-standing patrons who are comfortable with a recognisable format. The florists in this type of shop will know their craft, and although the designs may be sometimes be old-fashioned, the flowers will be well cared-for and the florists will advise customers on such details as after-shop care and life expectancy of the flowers. They may also take the time to find out something about the customer and the recipient of the flowers and may even suggest a suitable flower type. This type of shop is likely to belong to a ‘relay’ network (for example, ‘Interflora’), which means it can be used to send flowers to customers in the area that have been ordered elsewhere in the world. Conversely, customers in the shop can order flowers there to be delivered anywhere else in the world. The shop will normally have a brochure for you to choose from, and it will stock most of the flowers displayed in the brochure. The shop despatching the flowers at the other end must, under the rules of relay, send the flowers designated in the picture of choice. Although these shops are a safe bet, their flowers will rarely be particularly inspiring; however, they are useful if you’re looking for an uncontroversial gift.

At the top of the florist scale is the design-led flower shop, which truly cares about flowers and knows their business. They will have a diverse range of fresh flowers from all corners of the globe, which will be properly cared-for and their life expectancy will be of optimum length. The flowers will be arranged in interesting and exciting designs, and is an excellent choice for an inspired gift.

Gas Station Forecourt Flowers

Flower bunches found on gas station forecourts (known disparagingly as ‘gas wraps’ (GWs) in the trade) are put together in vast, wholesale outlets and are supplied to garages on a contract ‘sale or return’ basis. The flowers may be colour co-ordinated, that is, either in shades of one colour (usually loud shades of one colour) or two to three complementary colours (although not necessarily all that complimentary). They will almost certainly contain some carnations and chrysanthemums, but there may be a couple of gerbera thrown in as well. The flowers will normally be wrapped in a gaudy plastic wrapping, and are usually bought as a last minute thought on the way home from work or (even worse) on the way to a date.

Online Flowers

Buying flowers online is a really quick and easy way to show that special someone you care, without having to spend hours trawling florist shops to find the right flowers for the occasion. The website should show you what the flowers you are ordering should look like tell you when they should arrive, and should have a wide range of bouquets and gift sets available for you to choose from at the click of a button.

Online flower shops will also allow you to add your own personal message to a card, so that the recipient of the gift need never know the ease with which you bought their special gift.

However, to make sure you shop for online flowers in safety there are a few things you should keep in mind:

Customer Service

The online store should have a customer service section, which will provide you with all the facts about buying from them, flower delivery times and after sales support.

Delivery Charges and Times

Some florist shops on the Internet will add delivery charges when you reach the check out, whilst others will include the cost of delivery in the price. Make sure you check this out before you order your flowers so that you won’t be surprised by any extra charges. Most florists will require a surcharge for extra fast delivery, for example, to arrive the same day as you order. You should also find out if they can make deliveries on weekends and on Bank Holidays.

Secure Shopping

Before you give your credit card details, make sure that the site is using a secure server, which means that it will encrypt the information you are sending so that it cannot be read by anyone else. When you enter a secure server, the address of the web site in the location bar will change from www… to https://www… and the lock or key symbol in the bottom of your browser window will appear highlighted or locked.

You should also see if the site has the Shopsafe Approval; shops that have been approved by shopsafe.co.uk use the best available practices and technologies for safe online credit card transactions.

Side of the Road Flowers

Side of the road flower stalls usually offer bunches of a single flower type, such as chrysanthemums, roses or carnations. However, they are usually flower market rejects and are therefore unlikely to last much more than 24 hours. On the plus side, ‘side of the road’ flowers are usually pretty cheap and therefore not too bad in terms of value for money.

If you must buy flowers from these types of stall, stick to carnations and chrysanthemums as (if you’re lucky) they might last up to a week, although they’d last at least a fortnight if bought from a good florist. Roses bought from here will really only last a day.

Supermarket Flowers

Many years ago, flowers in supermarkets were of the same style and quality found at garage forecourts; sad, unstylish flowers wrapped in gaudy plastic. However, no self-respecting supermarket today would admit to not having its own in-house floral designer. The quality of the flowers is generally excellent because the deal offered to the suppliers by the supermarkets guarantees this. However, whilst the variety and selection of flowers can rarely be faulted, they normally lack any kind of personality. There is rarely anyone on hand to offer advice and even when there is, they lack any kind of specialist knowledge.

Supermarket flowers can be a great buy for those who simply want to brighten up their home. They are easy to get hold of, fresh, good quality and often under guarantee, but as a gift they’re not terribly inspiring or meaningful.