Whether it's a last-minute act of panicked desperation or a big "screw you" to the fancy overpriced florists, many of us will be picking up a bouquet at our local bodega this Valentine's Day. Lynn Jawitz of Florisan LLC (212-426-9886, florisanllc.com) tells us how to avoid the duds so your blooms will at least give the impression of forward planning and romantic extravagance.
1. Ask when the flowers came in.
The ideal answer is "this morning," especially for short-lived varieties like roses, but yesterday will suffice. Some flowers, like carnations, last a longer time, but if they've been sitting there for two or three days, you'll want to check out the bodega on the next block.
2. Look at where they're stored.
Heat is bad for flowers, so if the bodega is very warm or the flowers are stored near machinery that gives off heat then steer clear. Avoid flowers that are stored near fresh produce—fruit gives off ethylene gas, which shortens flower life.
3. Check the water.
Dirty, cloudy water signals the presence of bacteria, which kill flowers. The cleaner the bucket and water the flowers are kept in, the healthier the flowers. Also keep an eye out for green, yellow, brown or black mold growing on flower stems.
4. Check the flowers.
Stay away from droopy flowers that look tired, or bad flowers in bunches with good flowers. Leaves are a good indicator of health, they should not fall off easily. When choosing roses, gently squeeze the bottom of the bloom above the stem, selecting the firmest ones you can find.
5. Don't judge a bloom by its cover.
Don't assume specialist shops have better flowers than bodegas. There might be a very talented florist working at a bodega or supermarket, or a very inexperienced one at a flower shop. Inspecting the condition of the flowers with the above steps is the best way to discern their quality wherever you are.