I'll be off line until Friday, and will respond to your comments then.
My friend Susan sent me a lush bouquet recently, to thank me for a favour. I noticed that she selected some of my my favourites (snapdragons, hydrangeas) to complement the palette of the house.
Giving flowers requires little thought, but giving flowers that delight takes "gift-thought" like hers.
People do have tastes in flowers, as individual as those for food. My friend Vicky once asked me, "What kind of flowers don't you like?" I responded immediately, "An all-yellow arrangement." I was grateful that she asked.
I made the mistake of giving a client a fragrant bouquet that caused respiratory distress the moment she opened the box.
Though people often bring flowers to the host of a dinner party, I prefer to send them ahead, or have delivered after as a thank-you. If you do bring them, choose blooms that can be easily arranged in a vase, like a bouquet of parrot tulips.
Taking the time to shop at a florist's sends you miles ahead of corner-store bucket arrangements. Five green Fuji mums are far more elegant than armful of spongy roses, bloomed-out asters and embalmed greens. Not that I have to tell you, but someone buys this stuff.
A relationship with a florist gets you the tulips that will unfurl over a week rather than those that last two days. Like a great hairdresser, she can make the most of the material at hand and rise to any occasion.
If you don't know what to choose, a florist, hearing "wears lots of turquoise, very informal, has a gold-and-white living room", can nail it.
You don't have to spend big. Your florist will suggest what's in season and can work wonders with a few perfect blossoms. A bud vase of spring's first anemones has more cachet than a bland box of stiff roses. And if you have a flower garden, what a resource! A bouquet of home-grown peonies is one of the most sensuous pleasures I can think of.
If you can't get to the shop, a call to discuss what's fresh will result in a better bouquet than clicking on an product icon. I have sometimes told florists, "I don't want that FTD look" and they know what I mean.
Think beyond cut flowers. An orchid or pot of cyclamen lasts for many weeks, and can bloom again. If you shop flea markets or jumble sales, pick up some simple glass vases, stow till you need them, and make your own arrangement to present to a hostess.
Explore the language of flowers
The Victorians knew that flowers, singly or in an arrangement, carried a message. You might enjoy 'encoding' the bouquet you present. Today, little more than the "I love you" of the red rose remains well-known; here are a few more petaled signals:
Anemone- Unfading love
Azalea- Take care of yourself for me; fragile passion
Camellia- Admiration; perfection; good luck gift to a man
Carnation (red)- My heart aches for you; admiration
Carnation (solid color)- Yes
Carnation (striped)- No; refusal; sorry I can't be with you; wish I could be with you
Carnation (white)- Sweet and lovely; innocence; pure love; woman's good luck gift
Carnation (yellow)- Rejection; disdain
Chrysanthemum (red)- I love you
Chrysanthemum (white)- Truth
Chrysanthemum (yellow)- Slighted love
Gardenia- You're lovely; secret love
Gladiolus- Love at first sight
Hyacinth (purple)- I'm sorry; please forgive me; sorrow
Lily (calla)- Beauty
Lily (day)- Coquetry
Lily (tiger)- Wealth; pride
Lily (white)- Virginity; purity; majesty; it's heavenly to be with you
Lily (yellow)- I'm walking on air; false and gay
Rose (red)- Love; I love you
Rose (white)- Eternal Love; innocence; heavenly; secrecy and silence
Rose (pink)- Perfect happiness; please believe me
Rose (yellow)- Friendship; jealousy; try to care
Rose (red and white)- Together; unity
Rose (single, full bloom)- I love you; I still love you
and you can find more here.
Flowers are one of the few gifts that engage all the senses. Yes, the gift is temporary (unless you give a succulent or a dried arrangement, which is a bit too practical), but it's such a graceful gesture.
Well-chosen flowers are unforgettable; I recall the heirloom roses on
our sons' birth, a glamorous orchid given by friends for my 60th birthday, the tangerine double hibiscus brought for our garden planter.
I'd enjoy hearing of some of your memorable flower gifts, and any ideas you have for gifts of this kind.