Debbie Arrington

Seeds: Going beyond bouquet basics

California-grown flowers fill a bouquet made by Joy Flower Shop in Carmichael. Instead of a traditional vase, the bouquet started with a basket.
California-grown flowers fill a bouquet made by Joy Flower Shop in Carmichael. Instead of a traditional vase, the bouquet started with a basket.

Bouquets are coming out of the vase.

Competing against inexpensive supermarket roses, creative florists tempt customers with unusual arrangements. Often, these bouquets come with extra meaning, something personal to make a short-lived gift into a special lasting memento.

“The first thing people are looking for is an alternative to the typical glass vase,” said Joseph Kim of the family-owned Joy Flower Shop in Carmichael. “Just about anything can take the place of the vase. You’ve just got to figure out: Can it hold water?”

Flowers continue to be a favorite little luxury for American consumers. About a third of all households buy fresh cut flowers at least once a year, according to the California Cut Flower Commission. That’s about $17 billion in bouquets.

But how do you keep that product “fresh” and enticing? That’s been a challenge for neighborhood florists coping in the digital age of global flowers.

Technology has made ordering a bouquet fast just about anywhere, but what if a customer wants something different than the standard arrangements?

Relles Florist in midtown Sacramento encourages customers to upload their own personal photos, handwritten notes or drawings to make a unique greeting card to go with the bouquet. Owner Jim Relles also hosts how-to classes on making arrangements or other indoor garden skills. His J Street store will host a family class on how to make jack-o’-lantern bouquets on Saturday, Oct. 17.

Joy Flower Shop, 7630 Fair Oaks Blvd. in Carmichael, is part of a new network of florists called BloomNation, which specializes in artisan flowers and designs.

“BloomNation is like Etsy for florists,” Kim said. “We can produce one-of-a-kind arrangements and share them with customers.”

Hye Ran Kim, Joseph’s mother, makes their family shop’s arrangements. They start with the “vase.”

“The possibilities are endless,” Joseph Kim said of possible vase substitutes. “We’ve done arrangements in toy trucks. Teapots and decorated tins are very popular. You need it wide enough to hold stems and tall and wide enough so that it doesn’t tip over.”

A carved-out pumpkin makes an ideal “vase” for fall flowers. So are carved-out stumps or logs, with a glass vase or tube hidden inside. Using a plastic tub as a liner, baskets hold flowers, water and more.

“You can add other things to the basket, like gardening tools,” he said.

Champagne flutes and Mason jars are popular for both formal and informal occasions, Kim said. “They’re great for weddings and big parties. They’re very simple but elegant at the same time.”

As for fall flower choices, sunflowers, spider mums and daisies (both standard and gerbera) should be in good local supply. So are roses and fall lilies.

“You don’t typically think of roses and lilies in fall,” Kim said, “but orange roses and lilies are excellent in a fall bouquet. The main thing is color. You can’t go wrong with deep orange, burgundy, yellow, gold and bronze; they look rich and warm.”

Distinctiveness can also come from where the flowers are grown and how they’re delivered.

In particular, the search for American-sourced “slow flowers” has prompted a farm-to-vase counterpart to farm-to-fork food. About two-thirds of cut flowers are grown outside the U.S., with Colombia representing almost 4 out of every 5 imported blooms. Those South American flowers often were cut a week or more before they show up in a vase.

California florists have an advantage with going local; most of America’s flower crop is grown here. These blooms can go from field to florist in less than 48 hours.

And while the imports often are cheaper than those grown domestically, florists can make up the premium with customer service and expertise, they say.

“We send photos of our arrangements to the customers so they can actually see it before delivery,” Kim said. “Then we deliver it by hand in person.”

Pre-Halloween floral workshop

This family class shows how to make jack-o’-lantern bouquets; tools, pumpkins and flowers will be provided.

Where: Relles Florist, 2400 J St., Sacramento

When: 10 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 17

Cost: $35 adult; adult and one child, $45; each additional child, $10; class size limited; register in advance

Details: 916-441-1478,