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Green Acre #415: Flowers to Go, Go, Go

A closeup of the Firecracker bouquet from Urban Stems. / Photo by Stephanie Cavanaugh.

By Stephanie Cavanaugh

IF KRISTEN HARTKE still lived in Washington, DC, she would probably have gone to Eastern Market and picked up something fabulous for me from the flower lady. Maybe she would have mixed the blossoms with some greens and odds and ends from Trader Joe’s. Then she might have snipped some dried grasses from her garden and—poof!—brought me an arrangement to die for. 

As it was, the food writer, chef, and artist is living in Manhattan now, along with her husband, Rick Weber, and daughter Maddie, who lives on her own but in this they were together. So, flowers were shipped in a cheery box that landed on my doorstep. 

When my sister Jeanie passed away a few weeks ago I went to Florida to do what was needed. Several people sent flowers to her home, for me and my baby sister Bonnie to enjoy. Some were lovely, others were as sad as the occasion, with near-black roses moaning alongside strangely purple-mottled orchids.

Why do they make funeral flowers look so damn funereal? They have totally ruined lilies for me.

Kristen hit it precisely right. She ordered The Firecracker from Urban Stems. Nestled in greens was an explosion of color from blousy orange/pink roses, purplish thistle, with tight yellow balls of craspedia sproinging about. An apt remembrance for Jeanie, who always had such energy and panache, the note read.

She would have loved them.

I had sorta-kinda heard of Urban Stems but only now looked at the offerings, which have nothing to do with Teleflora or whatever flower service we’re most familiar with. The best that we (meaning me) can say about those arrangements is that they’re inoffensive. They sure don’t bring joy.

Well, Stephanie, I say to myself, this is a fine intro to a flowery Valentine’s Day column. Behold the slick segue! We (me again) put out the question: Where do you buy flowers, when flowers need to be sent?

Several readers suggested supporting local florists and buying flowers directly. Said Bird art director, Kathy Legg: When I send flowers to someone out of town I do a google search on florists in that town, pick a website, see what kinds of arrangements they offer, choose one and call them directly to place the order.

If you’re sending flowers to an office, make sure a vase is included, otherwise they might end up catawampus in a coffee pot—or worse. My Urban Stems arrangement ($70-$158) was shipped bare-stemmed, not a problem since it came to my home, and my home could give the Container Store a run for the money. The company’s vases start at $12.

But! I once worked at a newspaper magazine, wrote Christine Ledbetter. We were a small staff so they put us all in one room. On Valentine’s Day, the newly married copy editor received 24 red roses from her husband. The art director received a Ritz Carlton lobby-style arrangement from his boyfriend, a florist. A writer whose husband was traveling was sent a mixed bouquet of Birds of Paradise and Calla Lilies. My husband sent me roses from 1-800-flowers that arrived without a vase in brown paper, and never opened. My sad arrangement was the laughingstock of the room.

Oh my. Poor guy. For want of a vase . . . 

Caren Sniderman says chocolate is her go-to for Valentine’s Day, but I really like The Bouqfor online flower delivery. On-time and beautiful. For example, Sweet Escape takes you to the tropics with pink ginger and red cordyline paired with masajeana leaves and more super-lush greenery, plus dried okra pods—which dry well, so there’s a wisp of memory to linger. The price depends on the number of blooms, $49-$79 plus $12 for a vase.

Farmgirl Flowers has rarely disappointed Bird editor Janet Kelly: I had gorgeous peonies from them late May last year sent to Jackson Hole to a couple we were visiting for Memorial Day and have sent a few bouquets to my daughter-in-law that were always just right. Hydrangeas are the lure for the Dew Gooder bouquet, a delicious combination of pink, pistachio, and peach stems. It’s $68 including shipping, but includes nothing to stick them in. Choose a vase from your private collection, they say, in a helpful end note. 

You’ll notice that I do not include the cost of delivery in these prices. There are too many hoops to jump through, first-borns to be offered, and so forth, to pin those costs down. The exception is Farmgirl, which includes delivery on certain arrangements, Dew Gooder being one of them.

For more choices, check out Oprah’s website, which lists 18 flower delivery services, from budget to extravagant. By the way, Oprah gives highest marks to Urban Stems. Way to go, Kristen!  

2 thoughts on “Green Acre #415: Flowers to Go, Go, Go

  1. Mary K Weddle says:

    Though, I have to add, I’ve seen so many beautiful arrangements put together by you (and separately by your daughter) that I think Urban Stems might get a run for its money from the Cavanaughs!

  2. Mary K. Weddle says:

    Good info! Urban stems it is!

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