Pop Culture

Designer flowers for Mother’s Day

A Bamboo forest complete with its own bubbling brook. An ankle-high boot covered with fresh flowers. A triangular wooden fruit basket partially covered with green “Santini” mums and filled with Granny Smith apples. Not the usual Mother’s Day bouquets but a few of the selections you’ll find in the “designer collections” at cyber florists this year.

Are designer flowers better? Of course not, but they are everywhere this Mother’s Day, from national florist 1-800-FLOWERS.COM to lesser-known, cyber-shop CheapFlowers.com, where the “designer’s choice” is one of the company’s bestsellers.

What are designer flowers anyway? Like designer clothes, some designer flowers are arranged by big name floral designers. In the premier section at FTD.COM, a few of the flower arrangements come in Laura Ashley ceramic vases. “The colors of the vase are enhanced by the pink lily and snapdragons, yellow carnations, and purple wax-flower in this three-sided arrangement,” says the product description online.

This season, though, 1-800-FLOWERS.COM seems to have attracted the biggest names, including Jane Packer, a British florist and author of several books, who set up flower schools in London, New York and Tokyo, and Jane Carroll, who started out in the basement of her Bronx home and was catapulted into notoriety with a mention in Oprah’s magazine.

Designer flowers don’t come cheap. The boot covered with fresh flowers is a creation of floral artist Carroll and costs $250. There's a “matching” shoe or handbag for $165. The fruit vase a la Carroll costs $195 and also is available with Hocus Pocus tea roses and red apples.

Slightly less expensive are Packer’s arrangements at 1-800-FLOWERS.COM, which range from $75 for a bouquet of Calla lilies surrounded by purple foliage and dark red freesia and roses to $100 for a 20-stem display of purple orchids mixed with lily grass.

Known for her down-to-earth style, floral designer Julie McCann Mulligan offers up a mix of flowers typically found along side a country road, such as sunflowers, larkspur, hypericum, solidago, wax-flower, Queen Anne's lace and monte casino. The “Country Roads” arrangement costs $59.99 and comes in a decorative green ceramic pitcher.

Martha Stewart’s budding businessAnd then there’s marthasflowers.com, which may have started the designer trend in the first place. What makes the arrangements unique at marthasflowers.com is that they are just so Martha or “an extension of the brand,” says John Murphy, senior vice president of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Inc. and general manager of marthasflowers.com. He uses words like “low profile,” “simplicity” and “monochromatic” to describe the arrangements. “The flowers speak for themselves,” says Murphy.

Marthasflowers.com also stem from places close to home. Most of the arrangements are a mix of flowers “at their peak in the current season,” says Murphy. For example, it’s possible to get tulips almost any time of the year but marthasflowers.com only incorporates them into arrangements when they are in season in the Northern Hemisphere. Importing flowers off-season is very expensive, he adds.

Some of this year’s selections at marthasflowers.com require some handiwork, also so typical of Martha. In addition to five varieties of long-stem gerbera daisies, the Candy Bouquet, $69.99, comes with two nesting circular glass bowls, a bag of Martha’s “special blend” Jelly Beans and step-by-step instructions on how to assemble the floral candy centerpiece. Most of the work involves carefully placing the jelly beans between the two glass bowls and cutting the stems of the daisies to the desired length. The Candy Bouquet is “an arts and craft project,” says a company representative. “You can do it together with your mom,” she adds.

Unique, unusual, unmatched

The Bamboo forest is one of the more unusual selections in the designer collection at ProFlowers.com, one of the first companies to offer flowers direct from the farm. Like select products at marthasflowers.com, the Bamboo forest requires some assembly plus an electrical outlet to keep the brook running. The $89.98 kit comes with an electrical water pump, a faux antique bowl, different colored stones in plastic bags and several shoots of Bamboo as well as line-by-line instructions. If mom is the handy type, send it to her directly. If not, set it up at home and deliver the final product so she can just plug it in. Another option is to forego the pump and set up the forest simply surrounded by the stones.

In general, designer bouquets at ProFlowers.com are bigger, fuller and contain unique flowers, says Bill Strauss, president of proflowers.com. They also are arranged by hand versus assembled in the field, says Strauss.

Designer or not, this Mother’s Day why not make Mom’s day and make a difference. Some florists donate a certain percent of the proceeds from the sale of select bouquets to different charities. At organicbouquet.com, a 10-stem bouquet of white Siberian lilies for $49.95 helps support Project HOPE, which conducts land-based medical training and health care education programs around the world. Each 20-stem bouquet of Peruvian lilies for $29.95 benefits People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), the world’s largest animal rights organization.

Mother's Day is also the perfect time to help the fight against breast cancer. Ten percent of the revenue from any arrangement in the Pink Ribbon Collection at ProFlowers.com will be donated to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, whose mission is to eradicate breast cancer as a life-threatening disease. The Pink Ribbon Collection ranges from a tree in a pot that can be planted outside for $24.99 to a premium bouquet of mostly pink flowers for $69.99.

A vase is a vase is a vase

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