How Not To Buy Flowers For A Gardener

So, last week the content was a little sparse here on NW Edible. That’s because I got in a collision last Monday morning while driving the kids to the bus stop. Everyone is safe, no major injuries were sustained, the car is in the shop with substantial boo-boos, and we are all moving back towards equilibrium.

But most of last week sucked. I was really shook up. This is the first accident I’ve been in, and while we are beyond grateful that it wasn’t worse, the mental aftermath of what-ifs was rough. It left me pretty drained. I got sick. I slept poorly. I cried. I had constant headaches (I never have headaches). I yelled at the kids. I threw a fork across the kitchen when the toddler boundary tested by stabbing his sister over breakfast one time too many.

Nick, stuck at work, threw all the support he could at me from afar. Confronted with a wife who really needed to chill the heck out, he lobbed supportive emails, calming text messages and soothing gifts at me.

Those gifts included this lovely bouquet of flowers.

$4.75 per Square Inch

This floral arrangement was supposed to arrive to the house during the day, but showed up at some point after I had already left for my part-time evening job.

Consequently, Nick was the first to see the bouquet upon arriving to the front door. I’ll let him describe his reaction to the bouquet:

When I got home and saw the package, I nearly burst into tears myself.

Erica’d had a tough day – I’d known this from texts and emails. She’d cried, she’d yelled, she’d questioned both our lifestyle and her role in it. And so I’d done what any sensitive, caring guy who doesn’t like to see his woman unhappy thinks he should do: I’d ordered flowers. On the Internet. For same-day delivery.

And I’d paid for it.

Unfortunately my dear wife had to leave before the flowers arrived and so I was first to discover the delivery. When I rolled down the driveway and saw the tiny, tiny little package, a cardboard cube perhaps six inches on a side with a garish spray of irises and lilies poking out the top, sitting by our front door, my first thought was,

“Really? That thing has to cost more per pound than a fucking stealth bomber!”

We happened to check our bank records the next day, and Erica of course saw what the petite bouquet had cost me.


“Thank you so much for the flowers, but please don’t ever, ever do that again!” she’d said, teasingly.

I laughed. “Yes, my eyeballs nearly burned away when I saw how small it was, for what I’d paid. So I hope you enjoyed the flowers, because that’s the one time in your life I am ever going to get you flowers.”

The actual cubic vase that contained the bouquet was 4″ on a side. $76 for 16 square inches of bouquet works out to $4.75 per square inch.

Taking overpriced bouquets of flowers off the gift list is okay with me. In fact, I think most gardeners aren’t all that keen on store bought bouquets in the first place.

Although I am tremendously grateful to my husband for the thoughtful gesture, it’s hard for me not to think that I could stroll through my garden in 5 minutes, throw together double that bouquet and not even make a dent in what’s blooming outside, all for free.

And so, in an effort to help other gardener-spouses who may be temped to purchase a bouquet for their darling during a rough time, I would like to humbly suggest some alternative ways to show your support.

Beyond The Bouquet

Other caring and supportive things that could be purchased for around $75 (or less) that are, frankly, even more helpful and supportive than 16 square inches of flowers:

  • One pretty decent casual-dining dinner out for the family. Say: “Let me handle dinner tonight, honey. I got it covered. All you have to tell me is if you’d rather go out, or have me pick something up.”
  • Four dinners out for the family at the neighborhood pho restaurant. Say: “It’s been a rough week. Let’s just keep dinner easy. How about I pick up pho?” And then say that again, three more times.

  • Good quality pruners. I like Felcos. Say: “I know it’s been a shitty week, but you always feel better when you get to prune things.”
  • A kick ass pair of gardening boots. Say: “I thought getting through this rough few days and pulling yourself back up by your bootstraps would be easier if you had better bootstraps.”

  • A massage, with money left over for a tip. Say: “You’ve had a rough week. I’ve set up a massage appointment to help you relax. I’ve got the kids.”
  • An appointment at a salon for a haircut or other pampering service, if your gardener is into that kind of thing. Say: “Go do something just for you. I’ve got the kids.”
  • A $65 gift certificate to the neighborhood nursery and a $10 gift certificate to the neighborhood coffee shop (this one will always be a winner). Say: “I thought about getting you a bouquet, but I thought something that would come back year after year was more your style. Go have a cup of coffee and wander the nursery for awhile until you find something you love.”
  • A bottle of wine, a box of Fran’s grey salt chocolate covered caramels (or insert your gardener’s favorite indulgence here), that book your gardener has been eyeing, and time to take a bath. Unless you go for the really good wine, you’ll have money left over on this one. Say: “I know how much you just need some quiet time. We’ll be back in no less than 4 hours. Enjoy your bath.”

  • Have your heart set on flowers? Rather than an internet bouquet, I recommend a walk to the farmers market and a $20 bill dedicated to buying one of the huge and gorgeous bouquets typically sold – at least in our area – by the Hmong flower farmers. For $75 at one of the farmers market flower stalls you could fill every room in your home with huge bouquets of gorgeous tulips, irises, lilies, peonies and whatever else happens to be in season. Say: “Let me take you out for a Farmer’s Market picnic, hon. We’ll get a loaf of bread and that great cheese and some berries, and let me buy you one of those gorgeous bouquets this week.”

If you were having a rough week, what gift or gesture would you most want to help you relax and move past the stress?


  1. says

    First, thank goodness you are all ok. I am so sorry you have had to endure the headaches and mental trauma. XO

    Second, you freaking NAILED it. It is like you climbed inside my head or something! I am going to forward this to my husband and then bookmark it and send it to him a week before our launch and anniversary (they are within two days of each other). :)

  2. Arrianne says

    Hugs and so glad no one was seriously hurt! The perfect gesture for me is just time and solitude. I want to go away for several hours, pretend I never want to come back, get bored and miss everyone.

    Oh I LOVE to visit the flower ladies!! I was walking down the street with my kids in Seattle carrying one of those bouquets and I met a woman who was visiting from Chicago. WHERE DID YOU GET THOSE FLOWERS?!?! She was astonished I had only paid $10 for a gorgeous bouquet so big I could hardly hold on to it.

    My sister worked for a florist out of high school and for a long timer, if I need flowers sent for a get-well, I always asked her who to call!! When my DH first met me, he sent me a bouquet of roses from one of those internet florist companies. He was really disappointed when he saw the bouquet I received. Half of those precious roses were ruined and what was left wilted before the day was out despite my best efforts to save them. It was an $80 box of disappointment.

  3. says

    Glad to hear you’re OK! Accidents are seriously nerve-wracking. I love getting flowers, but they are ridiculously overpriced. I love our local market for fresh flowers on the (sorta) cheap. That said, most of your flower substitutes sound oh-so-much more delightful.

  4. STH says

    What I really value–and don’t get enough of–is time with my boyfriend. When he wants to treat me, he takes me out to dinner, but the best part is the walk we take by the river afterwards. Being outdoors with him is the best.

  5. Erin says

    I am outraged on your behalf. I would love to know what company thinks its okay to charge that much for a little wee thing of flowers. The little square vases are super cheap to buy. I carry them in my store and get them wholesale from a Chinese supplier in Vancouver, so I know what they pay for them!!
    Your alternate gift ideas are brilliant. I think all of your readers will be giving that to their/our husbands to read!!
    Be gentle with yourself and get some sleep. After my accident I was a real mess until my Dr gave me a Valium sample to take before bed, so I could sleep. I felt MUCH improved the next day. And normal within a few days. It’s like you’re in shock and need sleep to recharge.

  6. says

    Such awesome ideas! My husband always asks me what I want for my birthday and I always tell him I don’t want stuff, I want an experience. He has been baffled for 12 years, but we have done some pretty fun things.
    And I also love the Hmong flower growers. Here in Portland they are at many of the farmer’s markets and I am always amazed at how big and beautiful they are for TEN $$!
    For $75, lovely mates could buy tickets to a damn good show, whether it be music or dance or whatever.

  7. says

    Those are all fantastic ideas! I always appreciate an all-expenses paid trip to the bookstore as well. Glad everyone is physically ok!

  8. Regan says

    I would add to the list: hire a babysitter and go out with the other-half to the Farmer’s Market, local nursery (he would be bored but supportive), bookstore, massage, dinner, etc. I like spending time with him, but it always seems like we never can get out of the house together, without kids! We definitely don’t ever leave the house to just hang out and do fun stuff – we’re always on a mission.

  9. says

    I’m so sorry to hear about the accident, Erica. I had a feeling something was up to keep you away. I hope your mental healing is quick and as painless as possible. I can’t imagine how hard it would be with the kids. Being a mama leads to so much joy but so much extra anxiety!

    I told my husband “no flowers…or at least not dead ones” when we were still dating. We agreed that things like bulbs, bushes, or perennials were all good alternatives. One year for my fall birthday he gave me a day of planting bulbs. We have enjoyed those flowers for years now, even as we’ve dug some up and moved them to other parts of our yard. In honor of our June baby girl, whose middle name is Rose, he has promised me a rose of my choosing…so if anyone has a favorite rose, I’m looking for one that is prolific with a good old fashioned rose smell. I’ve always loved the sort that take over when abandoned.

    • brenda from ar says

      Robin, I’m with you on the idea of bulbs, bushes, etc. Cut flowers just make me sad. Very short life and very expensive compost.

      I don’t have any roses, but I’m longing for Rosa Rugosa – many blooms though they are flatter and plainer than most. The hips are suppossed to be large and they can be saved for rose hip tea, so you get flowers and a beverage. The vitamin C content is impressive and somehow not dimished by being steeped, which is uncommon for most vitamin C foods.

      Erica, so glad you are all OK. Feel free to spoil yourself too, as needed. It’s good for you.

      brenda from ar

    • says

      Hi there Robin, if you are looking for just one rose- its hard to go past Lorraine Lee. not sure if she has a different name in the US. this is an unusually robust rose that flowers for 9 months of the year even in very cold areas. A strong evergreen (also available as a climber) with double cupped rosy apricot-pink blooms all season. Foliage is rich green and healthy. Can bloom in year round and all winter in a protected areas (like against a wall or shed), if you are in a cold area try to prune when frosts are over, but go lightly as most Teas don’t like a lot of pruning.

  10. Kate N. says

    I feel you on the accident front – I had what I’ve been calling a fender-no-bender last month. There was no damage to either car, but the woman I hit ended up going to the hospital with whiplash later that night. I felt terrible about the whole incident, which included a $160 ticket and $40 trip to traffic school (that’s hard to stomach when you’re not bringing any income to the family). But the idea that I’d hurt someone sent me into a semi-hysteria that lasted about four days. It turned out that she was fine – the bump just jolted her bad back. But I still feel lousy even thinking about it.

    On a brighter note, though, I’m enjoying living vicariously through your flower pictures. I have precisely one flowering bush, and the only reason it’s alive is that it’s an indestructible native plant. I just can’t seem to work up the motivation to pamper flowers like I do edibles. Ah, well…

  11. says

    Such a ripoff! That was so sweet of him, but yeah – it is absolutely ridiculous what they charge. Frankly, I am so much more attracted to the farmers’ market/wildflower look of bouquets anyway – that’s if I ever get cut flowers for the house.

    I did get this beautiful bouquet for my housewarming party last weekend – now THAT’S a bouquet for a gardener, complete with fresh mint!

  12. says

    Dear Erica
    you were missed- and now I send you all the best wishes and love from down under for a full recovery!! Automobiles are a dangerous necessity………
    There is nothing better in the summer time than lilliums in the garden- they are awesome- but so sad once cut!
    Hang in there lady :)

    • says

      Electronic Funds Transfer? Yes, I suspect there will be quite a lot of funds transfered when we buy the new car… ;) Just kidding – I’ll look into the technique you REALLY meant. Thanks for the suggestion.

  13. Tiff says

    My Partner is amazing at this, here are some examples. She came home last month and said ” Honey I signed us up for a CSA and paid for the whole season” She called from the co-op and said ” I see lettuce starts what kind do you want” She brings home shrubs and bushes and say’s ” I saw these beautiful plants and thought of you” She came home last night after going out to another farm to pay for and pick up a hay feeder and said” I filled up the farm truck, because I know how much you love driving it and i wanted you to not have to worry about the gas” The list is endless of how she try’s to do stuff that is loving ‘ farmer style” I’m the lucky one!

  14. Just Nick says

    It’s funny – while Erica was writing this post, I found the original page I bought the flowers off of – and this minuscule nugget of inept floral arranging complies EXACTLY with the letter – if not the spirit- of what was specified. It is exactly so-many inches by so-many inches, contains X, Y, and Z flowers, etc. Felt a lot like the situations I deal with at work: “we deployed exactly what your requirements document specified…if it doesn’t meet your needs you should have written your requirements better.” Sigh.

    Total caveat emptor situation – I fell for their incremental build pricing (“Oh, I have to pay this much more for same-day…well OK…I have to pay this much more for residential deliver…well OK….it comes to WHAT…well OK…”) while knowing that Erica’d appreciate any of a dozen other gifts more. Even a good old gift card could have worked, but I wanted tangiability.

    I’ve ended up with this depressing vision that the online/phone flower business is totally playing on desperation: guys who are in the doghouse, children who didn’t plan far enough in advance for Mother’s Day (been there), etc.

  15. says

    Nick, I appreciate your gesture and it wasn’t even for me! Just knowing that someone is thinking of you and wants you to feel better is the best gift of all.

    On the other hand, this reminds me of a coworker at my old office. She would fight with her boyfriend and like clockwork a bouquet of roses would arrive at the office the next day. I kept my mouth shut, but really did it mean anything? It was her boyfriend’s knee jerk reaction to being in the doghouse. I told my SO not to ever ever do that, there are far more meaningful things he could do to make me feel better. Of course, we also have a running joke that if he ever gives me a diamond I’ll dump him because that means he REALLY doesn’t know anything about me.

    And a last thought: mail order flowers are good in some situations, such as for funerals. I was glad to have the option when a friend’s father passed away and the services were out of state, so it’s not always a bad thing!

  16. says

    Like others who’ve posted before me, I am so sorry you had this experience of the accident. That was me in October. But, I was at a complete stop waiting at a cross walk, talking to my kids, with torso twisted to look at them in the back. So, yeah, I saw a Chiropractor for a solid week with a rib that kept popping out of place. I finally tried Acupuncture, and felt like the practitioner was full of magic.
    Life is precious and on the bright side, a good shaking up can make us not get stuck taking it for granted. But, I know. I know the what-ifs rabbit whole. It’s so easy to get sucked down it, and it leaves me feeling worse. So, I wish you some peace and joy this week.
    The flowers make me smile. Really. It’s a sweet gesture. And since I worked in a grocery store floral department when I was a teen, I told my hubby at the beginning of our relationship: Don’t buy me flowers:) And now? My 4-year-old daughter requests them every time we visit the grocery store. It’s not candy she’s begging for, it’s roses! Life is funny.

  17. says

    I was wincing before I got the the reveal photo – I thought they were going to be those horrible fluorescent dyed flowers!! Or, even worse, the glittery blue roses! At least they were natural flowers, although insanely expensive.

    Last week we had our son’s graduation party (from EW) and so I wanted lots of purple and green bouquets for the house. The party was on a Friday, so I couldn’t use the Edmonds farmers’ market, but we drove up to Mukilteo to theirs right before closing time. I got a MASSIVE purple bouquet that made 3 bouquets for the tables for $12. Love it! And happy, happy, joy, joy: the BIG Edmonds market starts this Saturday!
    P.S. My blog is sorely out of date, but I am still gardening my front yard!

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