1. Avoid roses. They’re are almost always expensive (especially around the Hallmark holiday), and their carbon footprint—since they’re generally grown far, far away and pumped full of chemicals—is huge.
2. Choose an unusual statement bloom. By choosing one big, dramatic bloom (like the protea in the above pic) that brings texture and bright color to the arrangement, you’ll convey a unique sentiment. Proteae, which come in so many different colors and varieties, are not as pricey as roses, and they last forever.
3. Texture, texture, texture. Rid yourself of the notion that greenery and branches are “filler”—that’s just how the flower industry gets you to buy the more expensive blooms. Choose foliage with texture to provide an interesting backdrop for your flowers. Most florists stock curly willow, which is playful and fun. “Weeds” like thistles and Queen Anne’s Lace give a bouquet a nice wildness.
4. Contrast, contrast, contrast. If you’re drawn to pastel-colored blooms, choose something black or deep brown to set off the sweetness. (Fiddlehead ferns, glossy and brown, are great if you can find them.) Likewise, if you choose deep purples and fuschias, pick something silvery or pale green, like lambs’ ears, as a complement. We love poppies with black centers—built-in contrast!
5. Try something edible. Some florists will carry stemmed fruits and vegetables, which are amazing in bouquets. They lend a feeling of abundance, and often bring vibrant color or unusual texture to an arrangement. Artichokes (in season now!) are great, especially when they bloom with a bright purple flower. Persimmons (shown in the pic) have a sensual quality that fits the holiday.
6. Go seasonal with blooming branches. With the warm weather we had last week, blooming branches are starting to come into season around here. We can imagine nothing better for a Valentine gift than an armful of magnolia or cherry branches dripping petals. Now that’s romance!
7. Rule of threes. As AT readers, you’re probably already in tune with this idea, but here it is anyway: Choose odd numbers. Instead of two stems, go for three (or even one, if it's very expensive—like the cymbidium orchid above), especially when choosing your bold statement blooms. The asymmetry will be more pleasing to the eye.
For SF readers, here are a few florists we like who carry more unexpected fare (and please feel free to weigh in below with your own favorites!):
If you’re on a tight budget, check out Faith's recent post on AT:Chicago about choosing a great bouquet at the supermarket.