There may be cheaper ways to declare your love on Valentine's Day than by saying it with flowers, but that doesn't mean having to forgo a bouquet. Just put more thought into the presentation.
Sometimes less is more, such as attaching a caring note to a single long-stemmed rose rather than ordering a pricey dozen. Or mix a few stellar roses with a big selection of lower-priced blooms to make a statement.
Sprinkling a layer of rose petals on pillows or floating them on a candlelit bubble bath has been known to warm a Valentine's heart. Be creative about showcasing whatever you can afford.
"Flowers are a luxury, a discretionary purchase, but they're an affordable luxury," said Jennifer Sparks, vice-president of marketing for the Society of American Florists in Alexandria, Va. "A lot of people may be going away for the (Valentine's) weekend, but with the economy the way it is, many more will be staying home and having dinner in. Flowers accent that and create a little romance at the same time."
Here are some ways to prune your Valentine's Day floral costs even further:
-Shopping ahead of time can earn you some incentives. "There's a better chance you can get free delivery, better selection or an early-bird discount," Sparks said. "It certainly should guarantee they'll arrive on time since Valentine's Day this year falls on a Sunday when there's no mail or express delivery."
-Buy a small but extravagant assortment of lesser-known cut flowers. "Red roses are probably the most popular gift, but there are so many other options and price ranges," Sparks said. "Carnations and tulips are great alternatives. There also are some fragrant new hybrids out there that are a great value. Don't be afraid to ask florists for suggestions."
-Stretch things out. Put a potted plant here; place a mixed bouquet there. Present her with a corsage before leaving for that special dinner.
-Craft your own arrangement. Dig around for a whimsical pot or unusual vase. Design something suggesting a shared experience or a memorable trip together. Drop some golf balls or seashells beneath the blooms or stick a couple of theatre tickets and several colourful postcards into a hand-tied mix.
Still another way to boost flower power is by coaxing your blooms to stay fresh longer than the usual four to seven days. Re-cut the stems with a sharp knife as soon as you get them home so they can "sip" whatever water they need. Remove any leaves below the waterline to avoid unsightly bacterial growth and decay. Keep flowers in a cool place overnight (18 to 22 C); steer clear of drafts, heating and cooling vents, and long periods of direct sunlight.
And who says real men don't like flowers?
"When it comes to receiving flowers, men and women are on the same playing field," said Jeanette Haviland-Jones, a Rutgers University psychology professor, in a behavioural study reinforcing the idea that flowers have a positive impact on emotional health.
Ignore feminine frills, however. Go bold, said Sally Ferguson, a spokeswoman for the Netherlands Flower Bulb Information Center.
"Generally, men go for more vibrant colours - reds and yellows and purples, while women like softer shades," Ferguson said. "Presentation is the point of Valentine's Day. That's where the individuality comes in."