Bouquet of cut flowers

How to buy cut flowers for a gardener

My husband gave me flowers on our first date. When I tell people that now they say “wow, that was gutsy” or some less polite version of the same. My response is “well, it worked” and a smile.

There are usually two reason they think my now-husband was bold. The first is economic. Some think it was a gamble for him to spend money on flowers for a first date that might’ve gone nowhere.
The bigger danger for him though, really, was in choosing the right flowers. Buying flowers for someone who loves plants and gardens and sometimes speaks in latin can be scary. What if you buy the wrong kind of flowers? Egads, there are so many choices. What if she hates the smell of lilacs? Thinks zinnias are tacky? Has a thing against roses? Thankfully, my husband didn’t allow this to stop him (truthfully, he probably didn’t know me well enough to realize what a garden nut I am and the true peril he was in). He plunged ahead and picked up a bouquet on route to our dinner. I was charmed.

You’re probably reading this post because you know you’re thinking about buying flowers for a plant lover, maybe for Mother’s Day, and you’re worried that you’re not going to get it right. I can help you with that.


How to buy cut flowers for a gardener:
1. Make sure they’re fresh. A dying flower does not make for a happy gardener. Look at the flowers you’re about to purchase closely. There should be no browning on the edges of the petals. Are the petals themselves full of moisture and holding their shape (stiff as opposed to limp)? For roses, is the bloom fairly tight, with the petals hugging the inside of the flower? The more the rose bloom is open the older it is—a slightly open rose is good, a rose that’s overblown will not last more than a day or two.

These mums have been treated with blue dye.

2. Make sure they’re natural. Some flower growers will actually use dye to turn ordinary flowers colours they were never meant to be (think kelly green carnations, bright blue mums, baby blue carnations). It’s not that the colours aren’t found in nature (flowers do truly come in every colour), it’s that those particular flowers do not exist in that colour.  When you know how plants grow, these chemically altered flowers come across as garish. If you’re not sure if the flowers you’re looking at have been dyed, ask and then pick ones that haven’t.

3. Find out if there are any flowers the gardener hates. I really dislike gladiolas. When I was growing up, every time I was at a funeral, the flower arrangements around the casket always included big stalks of gladiolas (it was a small town with one main florist—the lack of variety is not just a trick of my memory). To me, they’re funeral flowers and I have bad memories. Other people love them, belong to gladiola societies, and grow armfuls of them just because they love them so much. On the other hand, I love lilies but some cultures associate them with death. The scent of lilacs means spring to me. The same scent makes my friend sick to her stomach.

Unfortunately, the only way to know if your gardener has a flower bias is to ask them. They’ll appreciate that you did.

4. Find out how green your gardener is. Gardeners are not a homogenous group. Some would rather not garden than let anything with a trace of chemical touch their soil, others (fewer and fewer these days, thankfully) will happily douse their gardens with synthetic fertilizer, pesticide, and herbicide. Most of us fall somewhere in between (using the least harmful chemicals in moderation).

If your gardener is the 100 per cent organic type, and you can tell that this extends beyond just their garden soil (For example, are all of their food purchases, including milk and peanut butter, labelled 100% organic? Does their pet only eat organic pet food?) you may want to buy them organic (and ideally, locally-grown) cut flowers. They’re generally more expensive and can be challenging to find, depending on where you live. For gardeners in the middle of the “green” spectrum, this criteria isn’t a “must”, but as these types of flowers become more available they’re a good choice (both for the planet and the health of the labourers who grow them).

5. Does the gardener have a favourite flower? If it’s roses or carnations—you’re in luck! They’re available year round. If it’s some other seasonal garden-only gem (e.g. pansies, marigolds, geraniums) you might have to restrict yourself to buying them a pot of their favourite plant during its growing season.

For our first wedding anniversary my husband surprised me with the same flowers that had been in my wedding bouquet. Romantic and smart!


When it comes to giving flowers as a gift it truly is the thought that counts. Your gardener will appreciate the effort you put into trying to get it right.

Trust me.

The flowers my husband gave me on our first date were all dyed bright colours.



  1. Nathalie on May 2, 2016 at 8:41 pm

    You have a very very wise husband. Love the thoughtfulness of giving you a beautiful bouquet of flowers the same as on your wedding day. So romantic!

    • Jennifer on May 3, 2016 at 11:54 am

      He does have a romantic streak 🙂

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