How to choose a grocery store bouquet—and make it last

I love having fresh flowers in the house, but I rarely know what I’ll be buying until I get to the supermarket and see what’s available. The hope is something beautiful, in-season, well-sourced, and that will last a while.

We’re incredibly lucky to have a great grocery store—Nugget Markets—around the corner who makes that easy. They focus on carrying products from local producers whose practices they can fully get behind—and every time I work with them I’m impressed by the care they put into seeking the best local products. It really feels unique to the region.

That said, while their stores are currently only to be found in Sacramento Valley and in Marin County, their focus on the local producers and sustainable practices is something one can seek out anywhere. You just have to know what to ask.

I took a trip out to Petaluma last week to visit Neve Brothers‘ flower farm and see how my roses are being grown. Here’s a bit of what I learned there—including how to make roses last—and my favorite tips for arranging a grocery bouquet at home…

Petaluma is in Sonoma County, where rich soils, sunny days, and a mild coastal climate creates some of the best growing conditions in the world—and there are worst ways to spend a day than driving past dairy cows and wineries on one’s way to a flower farm.

Neve Brothers is a family-owned and operated farm that’s been there for over 60 years, and I met up with Lou and his two sons, Chris and Nick, for a tour of their greenhouses (over 460,000 square feet).

I learned that they grow their roses hydroponically in organic coconut peat, in greenhouses that retain sunlight and humidity. And they have installed a water treatment system to filter and re-use all of it—zero waste!

You could tell how proud they are of their farm’s efficiency, and that genuine pride is the kind of thing that makes me want to start learning where all of my flowers are coming from: Where are they being grown and how far have they travelled? Are they water-wise?

And, at the supermarket: Do you know your growers? How often do you place orders and restock? Can you get me a specific arrangement?

These stacks of roses were piled up for the Thursday delivery to Nugget Markets. And while I usually just make my arrangement selections based on what’s available, I was interested to learn that I can go to the floral department and make requests. Very often, with enough notice, they can have a specific color or flower put aside.

It’s the kind of detail that can only happen when your market has a relationship with its suppliers.

So, looking around at all of these beautiful flowers, I asked Lou Neve for the secret to making them last—a question I think he saw coming.


How to keep flowers alive: 

  1. Clean stems.
  2. A fresh cut.
  3. Lots and lots of water.

A fresh cut—and it doesn’t have to be much, maybe a quarter of an inch—will expose fresh cells in the stem that can take up water. Think of the stem like a bundle of tiny straws: As cells die and break down at the cut, they—and any bacteria and sodium in the water—clog up the straws. You can use filtered water to delay the clogging a bit, or put a drop of bleach in, but don’t skimp: a larger volume of water will actually help get it taken up.

My favorite arranging tips? 

  1. Break up pre-arranged bouquets. Pull out any single stem of flower that does not go, and put it in a small bud vase. Don’t worry that the bunch is smaller—you just made one into two.
  2. Think in three. Natalie Bowen, my floral-designer friend (who contributed a series on here a while back) suggests “limit yourself to only three components. One bloom, one green, and one textural element.” For example, I’ve found that if I buy roses, hydrangeas, and a green—like eucalyptus—the result is usually really pretty.
  3. Consider the setting. Flowers rarely look beautiful in isolation. Keep in mind the environment your arrangement will be placed in and choose a palette accordingly.
  4. Keep it simple. Stick to one color or one flower. When in doubt, a mass of a single flowers is hard to beat!

Thank you to Neve Brothers and Nugget Markets for the fun morning!

Do you have a favorite flower? Dahlias and peonies are two of my top choices; my wedding bouquet was made up of sweet peas. 

P.S. Simple Summer Tartines and Rosé Frozé, and grilled salmon with basil, avocado, watermelon & tomatoes.  Also, how to make your own olive-branch garland.

This post is sponsored by Nugget Markets, our local, family-owned grocery. Founded in 1926, Nugget Markets has been committed to providing an extensive selection of quality products, exceptional service and lower prices than any other conventional grocery store. For 13 consecutive years, Nugget Markets has claimed a spot on Fortune Magazine’s “100 Best Companies to Work For” list. I’m always honored to partner with them! 


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