Most of us are grateful to receive anything at all on Valentine’s Day, even if only a “u up?” text. I don’t know many who feel snobbish about a simple box of Russell Stover’s chocolates and a bouquet of miscellaneous flowers picked up from the checkout rack at the grocery store. Of course, those chocolates would probably taste better were they purchased from a local chocolatier, just as the bouquet would probably look a bit nicer and last a bit longer were they purchased from a florist, but the thought, as ever, counts.
Valentine’s Day is one of those capitalism-concocted holidays that seems to exist purely to keep these industries alive — besides weddings and funerals, there aren’t many other occasions that require flowers. And while you definitely should buy your flowers from a florist, if only to support a local business, when it comes to romancin’, grocery store flowers will likely do just fine. “Imagine getting flowers enough that you could be choosy about where they came from!” says Ashley Uzer, 26, in L.A. “My desperate ass will accept flowers that last week’s Hinge match stole from his neighbor’s yard, to be honest.”
“I enjoy flowers, so I’d be happy to get any, frankly,” says Kitty Stryker, a writer in San Francisco. “But I do find the ones from local florists tend to be better arranged to bloom in sequence, making the bouquet last longer with flowers that look healthier. I think more delicate transport helps.”
It’s true that flowers purchased directly from a florist are usually of a higher quality than those available at the grocery store: You’re paying not only for the personal care and attention put into the arrangement, but also higher-quality flowers that are better maintained before being sold. (It’s like sushi — you’re going to have a better meal at an actual sushi restaurant than the kind rolled at the grocery store.) As the internet explains, florists are equipped to cater to the needs of individual species of flowers, providing them with the right nutrients or watering more frequently. For that reason, the flowers are likely to look better for longer.
But Emily, 22, a florist in Jacksonville, tells me that the most significant thing a florist can offer is personalization and care in the design. “Buying from a florist rather than a grocery store makes flowers less of a commodity and something that has more meaning,” she says. “Every bouquet we make as a florist is a little bit different, and it can be personalized based on customers’ preferences. There definitely are grocery stores that have good quality, long-lasting flowers, but you’re missing that sense of getting something made especially for you or your loved one. It’s more of an experience.”
If you do decide to go the non-florist route, though, be aware that there’s a hierarchy here, too, and Trader Joe’s is inevitably going to look better than a gas station. “It depends on the grocery store for me for some reason,” says Kaelyn, a 22-year-old in New York City. “Like, if you’re buying me Trader Joe’s flowers — cute. Publix/Walmart/Winn Dixie, etc. — gross. But see now, if you got them from a farmer’s market? Pristine! That’s real love!”
Basically, wherever your partner prefers to buy groceries is likely the place they like their flowers from, too.
But what about buying flowers online? It’s a toss-up — Christine, a 25-year-old from Massachusetts, tells me she’d much prefer a bouquet from a grocery store. “In my opinion, someone driving to Trader Joe’s and handpicking something for $7 means more than logging onto 1-800-Flowers and picking the top item for $45 to be delivered, half-dead,” she says. Of course, having a nice bouquet of flowers delivered to your partner’s office might add some bonus points. Typically, though, you’ll want to spend more than $45 to do that well: Even a small mixed-bouquet from 1-800-Flowers goes for more than $60, which a media representative from the site tells me is partially because they source their flowers directly from local florists.
In a lot of cases, you simply get what you pay for. When I receive a bouquet, I’m never expecting it to last more than a few days. It’s truly the thought that counts, and I’d prefer my boyfriend saves some coin to buy me a big Italian feast on Valentine’s Day. However, there are certain occasions that call for the work of a florist. “My husband gets flowers for me every Wednesday when he does his weekly ShopRite trip, and I never mind,” says Lily Rodriguez, a social worker in Massachusetts. “The flowers range in quality depending on the time of year, but that never makes them any less special. For big occasions, we always go to our local flower shop and make our own bouquets. Our moms always receive florist bouquets for birthdays! If I’m hosting at my house, or I’m sending congratulations or thank you flowers, we go to the florist. I can’t tell if they last longer since I usually have them for no longer than a week. But the ones from the flower shop are always better quality in color, size and bloom.”
If you’ve got the money, then, head to the florist for a proper floral arrangement. Ditto if it’s an important event or occasion. For some people, Valentine’s Day is one such important occasion. For others, they’ll be just as happy if you pick a dandelion out of a crack in the sidewalk off the street. The bigger task, then, is knowing which person you’re dating.