3 DIY flower arrangements for Valentine's Day

Vintage hand-tied posy

Is your lover the sweet old-fashioned type? This loose bouquet of hydrangeas and roses will be perfect.

You will need: A selection of long-stemmed hybrid tea roses, still tight in bud or just beginning to open • Small decorative dahlias • Pink mophead hydrangeas • Blue gentianas • Dianthus (we used 'Green Trick').

Step 1: Prepare your flowers by stripping off any foliage that's likely to sit below the water line. Remove rose thorns.

Step 2: Use the hydrangeas to support the blue gentians and pompom dahlias simply by poking their stems through each mophead.

Step 3: Assemble the posy by holding the first bunch of roses and hydrangeas in your left hand while adding new stems with your right, twisting the bouquet around as you add in more stems on an angle.

Step 4: Tie the posy together with natural twine.

Step 5: Use sharp scissors or clean secateurs to neatly trim the stems to the same length. Don't try to cut through all the stems at once as this can end up damaging and crushing their ends, reducing their ability to uptake water once in the vase.

Dazzling summer bouquet

Want to give your secret crush the message that they're the hottest thing on two legs? This bold bouquet of lilies, dahlias, alstroemerias and bottlebrushes in dazzling hot hues should do the trick.

You will need: Red or orange asiatic lilies • Alstroemeria 'Red Baron' • Geum 'Fireball' • 'Bronze Bicolor' Hypnotica dahlias • Flaming katy kalanchloes • Copper-flowered evening primrose (Oenothera 'Sunset Boulevard' or 'Endless Orange') • Red bottlebrushes (callistemon) • Nandina domestica 'Fire Power' foliage.

Step 1: Prepare your flowers by stripping off any foliage that's likely to sit below the water line, and by trimming the lilies and alstromeria stems to suit the depth of your water-filled jug.

Step 2: Scrunch up a ball of medium-grade wire chicken mesh to fit inside the jug. This holds the stems in place in the centre of what is a fairly top-heavy arrangement, allowing the alstroemerias and lilies to be splayed out on an angle.

Step 3: Push the lilies and alstromeria stems into the mesh, alternating them to create a ball of orange-red blooms.

Step 4: Add accents of gold and copper by inserting the dahlias, geums and flaming katy flowers between the lilies and alstroemerias.  

Step 5: Finish with a few orange evening primrose stems, red bottle- brushes and a fringe of nandina foliage around the base. This easy-care shrub is often scorned because of its overuse in bland commercial landscapes, but nandina comes into its own for floral work, with vibrant foliage and sprays of red berries, both of which last for weeks in a vase.

Cool and casual cottage centrepiece

If you want an arrangement to display on the table during a romantic dinner for two, combine an armload of pale flowers with contrasting variegated foliage.

You will need: • Single-flowered white roses such as 'Wedding Day' • 'Bridal Bouquet' hydrangeas • White annual cosmos • 'Divinity' gladioli • 'White Magic' inticancha alstroemerias • Bishop's flower • Variegated hosta leaves • Deutzia x magnifica

Step 1: FIll a large glass jar  with water and conceal it inside the enamel tin. This will anchor the large arrangement to prevent it tipping over, and offers extra support for tall flowers such as gladioli or delphiniums.

Step 2: Remove rose thorns easily by pulling the stems through a double-folded tea towel. Prepare the rest of the blooms by removing any foliage that will eventually sit below the water line.

Step 3: The bulkiest blooms – hydrangeas and roses – go in first. Add a few stems of clean hydrangea or rose foliage around the base of the tin.

Step 4: Fill in the gaps between the bigger blooms with annual white cosmos and lacy Bishop's flowers (Ammi majus) and perennial alstroemerias.

Step 5: Pop in frothy fillers around the top and sides of the arrangement. Tuck a few variegated hosta leaves in at the front, then slip in a few tall spikes of white gladioli or delphiniums.

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6 ways to save on Valentine's Day flowers

Valentine's Day may be one of the few times per year that you go out and buy fresh flowers, but that is no excuse for rookie mistakes. The gift of flowers is a reminder that you are thinking of someone and February 14 is an excellent opportunity to send this message. Make that gesture count with these budget-friendly tips for delivering quality flowers that won't disappoint.

Opt out of the Valentine's Day up-sell - Almost all floral retailers will create Valentine's Day-specific offers to catch your eye. Those bouquets come with a hefty price tag, and often lack on the stem count you are looking for. Avoid the holiday-specific bundles.

Get to know your Farmer's Market - Get to know a Farmer's Market in your neighborhood before Valentine's Day. Pay attention to bouquet costs when it's not a floral holiday so that you have a baseline before prices increase. Ask a vendor to pre-order for Valentine's Day and lock in a price before the holiday surge. You can feel accomplished come February 14 knowing you already have your fresh flowers and that you have supported local growers.

Don't procrastinate - Many companies offer incentives to place your Valentine's Day order in advance, so that they can get a sense of how much inventory to allocate for the major holiday. Take advantage of those offers and you can save quite a bit - you can also sit back and relax while everyone else is scrambling to find the last red and pink flowers!

Learn how to pick fresh flowers - Chances are that if you are looking at a bouquet and all of the flowers are already open, those flowers were not picked yesterday. We all get stuck on how the blooms look right when we buy them. A real flower pro, though, will know to look for bouquets or bunches where the flowers are still closed. Those blooms are the most fresh, and will continue to bloom for days to come.

Do some recon - Sending flowers online? Do all that you can to make sure those blooms are fresh and look good. Check to see where your retailer ships from, and opt for a business that sources flowers from U.S. farms. Floral retailer Bloom2Bloom founder Laurenne Resnik advises, "Whether you're buying online or in store, check for companies with the 'American Grown' or 'California Grown' labels. Farm-direct flowers really do last longer." Unlike most outlets, Bloom2Bloom doesn't change its products just for Valentine's Day.

Think outside the vase - Don't fall for the clich├ęs this Valentine's Day. Skip the vase and look for companies that keep costs down for consumers by wrapping bouquets in Kraft paper for that farm-fresh look. Remember, just because everyone is advertising red roses this Valentine's Day, doesn't mean you have to buy them. Rananculus and Tulips offer a new twist on an old classic. Not to mention, they are in season in California right now!

A guide to giving flowers on Valentine's Day -- or any day of the year

Before Emily West became famous as a competitor (and later runner-up) in the 2014 season of "America's Got Talent," she was already a Nashville legend. I had the biggest crush on her, and so apropos of nothing and without introduction, I brought a dozen white roses to a show she was playing at a sold-out club.

I went up to the stage before her performance, when West, blonde hair perfectly curled, was fiddling with gear. I thrust the flowers at her, mumbled a few forgettable words and then fled back to my table.

If I had to pick one point when I learned that there were right and wrong ways to give flowers, that would be it.

"Out-of-the-blue flowers, when you're dating someone, are super-sweet," West told me over the phone recently. "When you get them from a stranger, it's ... not as sweet."

With this experience in mind, I set out to figure out the basics of bouquets, the fundamentals of flora, the rules of roses. Here are five guidelines for gifting flowers on Feb. 14 - or any day of the year.

1. Flowers are appropriate any time.

West remembers her favorite instance of receiving flowers: There was no special occasion, just a bouquet on sale at the grocery store. She was shopping with her then-boyfriend of four years, berating him for not buying them for her. "They were only $10 - they were manager's special - and they were so beautiful," she recounted.

Her boyfriend wandered off, and West checked out with her items, still fuming. "He was kind of being a d-- about it," she said. She stalked through the parking lot, and there in her car was the arrangement.

"Flowers aren't ever bad," West summed up. "It's usually the person that's bad."

2. But you better have some rapport.

What I learned from West -- and seconded by many of the women in my life -- is that the idea of a stranger on a porch holding a bunch of posies may sound cinematic but in real life is just awkward. Or worse, creepy.

For example, back in college, I saw a beautiful woman performing in the musical "The Pirates of Penzance." The next night, I went back with flowers. The uneasiness on the woman's face, juxtaposed with the eagerness and hope on mine, was quite a contrast.

"We see these 'grand gestures' all the time in romantic comedies," says Sara Johnson, a childhood friend. "But they're weird. You put me in a position to deny you in a public forum? That's awful. I never want to be in that situation."

Flowers imply intimacy. And if I've learned anything, it's that intimacy comes only through familiarity and time.

3. Traditional is king.

Maybe you know your special someone's favorite flower. But when in doubt, defer to tradition: Roses. Sunflowers. Lilies. Just like the black tux, they're never going out of style.

The U.S. flower palate "comes from our nature as a country to be very conservative," said Mario Vicente, the general manager for Fresca Farms, an importer and grower based in Miami. Vicente estimated the domestic market is about three years behind European tastes, and more often that not, strains of flowers his company believes will be popular end up falling flat in the United States.

4. Defer to the professionals.

"The great thing about flowers is that you don't have to be an expert," says Jennifer Sparks, a 26-year veteran of the flower industry and the vice president of marketing for the Society of American Florists.

Sparks recommended walking into a florist with a few key pieces of information: your love interest's personality; a favorite color; or any pertinent biographical information, such as a flower grown in his or her grandmother's garden. Floral arrangers are artists, she said, and they'll express your information through color, type, texture and design.

Want to go the next level? If you've been buying flowers for years, tell your floral specialist about what has worked and what hasn't. "It's a collaborative process," Sparks said.

5. Hey, a philodendron is always nice, too.

"Flowers die. Buy a plant," one woman at my gym suggested. I can see her point: Even those who are vigilant in changing the water and trimming stems every day or two will still be confronted with flowers' mortality.

Kyndal Smith, an interior designer who often incorporates walls of plants in her layouts, recommended low-light-loving foliage for their air-purifying and mood-enhancing benefits.

Smith recommended hardy options such as spider plants, string of pearls, arrowhead, pothos and ivy varieties, lavender, and jasmine. All require minimal watering and thrive inside.

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