Unsung Heroes of the Supermarket Cooler

Garden Party

So many perfectly lovely cut flowers meet the sad fate of becoming popular in mixed supermarket and hospital gift shop bouquets, causing us to forget just how interesting they are in their own right. But there are plenty of more inspired ways to design with these unsung beauties, many of which have the added bonus of being cheap! Let's look at some examples.

Putting a modern, thoughtful twist on a "boring" flower can be a pretty simple affair; it doesn't require a trained eye or knowledge of any special technique. Sometimes it's just about giving the flower the spotlight — arranging it in big bunches all on its own, with no other elements to distract — and sometimes it calls for pairing these flowers with unexpected elements, rather than with the traditional bland complements.

Check out how these predictable choices look fresh and new in their unexpected arrangements:

Baby's Breath. Shoving baby's breath in with a bunch of roses is the kiss of death for this flower. "No roses and baby's breath" is the number one thing I hear from brides who are looking for something unique and of-the-moment; the traditional pairing has just become so dated. But when you gather tons of baby's breath together into a big cloud-like bouquet, its sweet and delicate personality really shines through. The key with baby's breath seems to be to just use masses and masses of it. Luckily it's cheap and easy to find!

Carnations. Here's another flower doomed to a terrible stereotype: it's the symbol of the clueless boyfriend, right? The one who means well but has no taste. Well, cut the poor guy some slack, because carnations have made a bit of a resurgence; here again, when bunched together in large quantities, they take on an entirely different aura. Use the ruffled petals to your advantage, layering the flowers for a kind of mounded look with monochromatic texture. A few asymmetrical additions in contrasting colors add interest and surprise. And the use of an unexpected container in a contrasting color helps too!

Statice. So in general, I will admit, I'm not the biggest fan of statice in any form. It just smacks of dusty dried flower arrangements in the lobbies of creepy bed-and-breakfasts. But when I saw this wreath on Etsy, I was kind of smitten. The statice looks ethereal and charming rather than… well, dead or old.

Ferns. Generally relegated to filler status, ferns are gorgeous as the focal element in a bouquet, whether on their own or paired with color. I love bouquets with mixed varieties of ferns — maidenhair, sword fern, tree fern — for a play on textures and different shades of green.

Leucadendron. Maybe you don't know what leucadendron is by name, but you'd probably know it if you saw it, since this amazing plant has become a popular, over-used filler in tropical and "exotic" bouquets. Leucadendron is one of my absolute favorite plants to work with; it comes in a staggering array of colors, textures, and shapes, from silvery and soft to deep red, stiff and structural. The tulip-shaped heads are perfect for filling in holes, and because they're often multi-headed, you get a lot of bang for your buck. Try pairing leucadendron with flowers that don't at all scream tropical or exotic. In the pictured bouquet (fifth photo), I used farmers' market anemones; the leucadendron (from my garden) is the lovely red accent flower. The next photo includes leucadendron too... it's the white flower with the crazy deep red center.

Palm leaves. We tend to take palm fronds for granted, too, as filler for tropical bouquets. But these also come in endless shapes, sizes, and colors, and if you choose to highlight their unique forms rather than hide them, they'll work to your advantage. I love a little hint of a spiky palm frond mixed in with lots of other textures, adding a kind of asymmetrical fan shape to an arrangement.

Hypericum. These berries tend to look dated when coupled with the standard lilies or irises, but I love them in other contexts. In the pictured bouquet, they're yanked right into the 21st century when paired with florals in the same color family for a monochromatic arrangement full of interesting textures.

What are some of your favorite unsung beauties of the supermarket cooler?

Images: Rainflower Company; Jean Allsopp for MyHomeIdeas; New Hampshire Woods Creations; Good Housekeeping; Susie Nadler; Caitlin Atkinson for Flora Grubb Gardens; Susie Nadler; Carolyne Roehm