ISSUE 69  |  Spring Cleaning

Frugal Flowers: How to Make Supermarket Ranunculus Look Like a Million Bucks

April 22, 2013 3:00 PM

BY Erin Boyle

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Multi-layered and gravity-defying atop delightfully bendy stems, ranunculus is one of my favorite cut flowers. Early spring is the right time of year to snag bunches as they begin to appear in flower and farmer’s markets. As with last week’s $10 Tulip Bouquet, you can even get lucky and find bunches at the grocery store for reasonable prices. I picked up two bunches of ranunculus for just $5.99 each this week. Here’s what I did with them:

Photographs by Erin Boyle.


Above: The bunches that I picked up at Trader Joe’s in Brooklyn were something of a mixed bag. In the same bunch with tight buds were flowers that were already past their prime. I chose two bunches carefully and then sifted through to find the stems that were most beautiful.


Above: The curvy stems of ranunculus make them excellent candidates for arranging in small glass bottles. By adding just a few stems per bottle, I could showcase the most beautiful blossoms.


Above: I found these tiny glass vases at one of my favorite local shops, Holler & Squall, on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn. The bottles were originally part of a much larger set affixed to a wooden rack and used in grafting grape vines. The chalky patina and diminutive size caught my eye. If you’re looking for a set of old glass bottles, consider Five Vintage Glass Medicine Bottles from Pail and Pie via Etsy.


Above: One of the biggest threats to fresh flowers is bacteria in the vase, so even though I wanted to retain some of the patina of the old vases, I needed to get rid of some of the residual dirt. I used a thin bottle brush and warm soapy water to give them a light scrub. A similar Casabella Bottle Brush is available from Crate & Barrel; a set of two brushes is $6.95.


Above: Because I knew I was dealing with vases that were slightly less than perfectly clean, and flowers that looked like they might have already endured some extended shelf time, I decided to mix up a batch of homemade flower food. To one quart of water, I added 2 tablespoons of sugar and 2 tablespoons of white vinegar. The sugar acts as food for the flowers and the vinegar helps mitigate bacteria. I stirred the mixture until the sugar was dissolved and then filled up my bottles.


Above: Before adding my flowers to the vases, I stripped off damaged foliage and picked through my bunch to select the nicest stems.


Above: Cutting the stems to different lengths and pairing opened flowers with tighter buds in the same vase is a nice way to achieve visual variation.


Above: I liked my five bottles equally well lined up on my windowsill í  la this winter’s Paperwhites, and clustered together on a favorite platter. This platter was designed and made by May Luk right here in Brooklyn.


Above: I plunked my second-choice blooms into last week’s Stoneware Pitcher and displayed the real showpieces front and center on our kitchen table. The grocery store delivers, again.