Pictured below are two stems of hydrangeas. One was a random stem I picked up at a local floral wholesale supplier and the other was the best I could find at a local grocery store. Both were picked up on the same day within an hour of each other. Both were cut and hydrated with the leaves removed (but not yet placed in the cooler to harden off). I treated them as if they were the same... but they clearly are not. Can you guess which is which?
In case you need a bit of help take note of the one on the right- the stem is thin, the size of the bloom is small, and it's covered in brown spots. It's only going to get worse from here... as you may have guessed, that's the one from the grocery store. Now don't get me wrong, you can definitely find great blooms from time to time at the grocery store, but if you have an important event coming up it definitely pays to know that your flowers are of high quality. I hear all the time, "Well I can get that cheaper at the grocery store." Well, yes you can... but like most things in life, you get what you pay for!
When flowers are purchased from a florist they go through a cycle called the cold chain. Throughout the process of reaching the client they are properly cut, hydrated and put in correct solutions to keep the flowers fresh, and are kept cold throughout the process. Heat is the enemy of most flowers (along with low humidity, drafts, and sunlight). When I picked up the hydrangeas from the grocery store, they were outside somewhat away from the sun, in 75 degree warmth, and relatively low humidity. On top of this, I have no idea how long they've been there, when the stems were last cut, or if the buckets were clean with proper solution in the water. The flowers all seemed a little sad and honestly will have a decreased vase life due to the conditions they were in. At another grocery store I have recently been to, I noticed that their flowers were hit by the blast of air every time someone walked through the front door. This is so bad for flowers! When florists receive flowers from the wholesaler, we know how long they have been there (usually they have arrived that morning after being transported in to them), and from there the flowers continue in the cold chain until being delivered to the client.
So to go back to the earlier statement of getting flowers cheaper at the grocery store, remember that the extra cost from a professional florist will get you so much more: increased vase life, proper care of the flowers, the highest quality blooms, and in many cases you will be supporting a small business rather than a large corporation.