Fresh they aren't, of course. Most cut flowers come from South America these days. But, if you circle the display long enough, you can usually find some that still look perky--and not too artificial.

Cheap, too. As there's a limit to how much I can spend on such luxuries, I prefer my bouquets to be no more than $5. I picked up a bunch of Peruvian lilies (Alstroemerias) for my aunt a couple days ago for that price. I've found them to be among the least expensive flowers, as are mums--such as the white Cremon variety pictured here--and carnations. Fortunately, those are the types that tend to last longest too. Tulips used to be a bargain as well, though I notice that their price has gone up.

carnations bouquetI purchased a $5 bunch of mini-carnations for myself recently, and was careful to re-cut the stems, strip off the lower leaves, and add the packet of flower food to the vase. The carnations didn't show any signs of decline until about a week later. When I went to throw them out, I noticed that there were new buds opening. So I just began snipping off the faded flowers, and the bouquet lasted another week. Except for over-long stems, the mini carnations actually look similar to the semi-double types we grow in our gardens.

Cremon mumsIf your bouquet didn't include a packet of flower food, you might be able to get a similar effect by adding a couple teaspoons of sugar and a teaspoon of lemon juice or vinegar to the water. Some people prefer to replace about a fourth of the water with lemon-lime soda instead.

I have even found cheap roses in the supermarket, but they were generally smaller ones whose blooms grew in clusters--perhaps some type of polyantha. To contrive the snow picture, I dumped one stem of them in the white stuff. I was afraid it might kill them, but that stem of roses actually lasted longer than the others in the bouquet, as cool temperatures help preserve flowers. Although I wouldn't recommend tossing them in the snow, I've heard that some people refrigerate their flowers overnight. I often place garden bouquets intended for church in our basement cold room the evening before too.

orange roses in the snowIf you do refrigerate your bouquet, make sure all your produce is tucked away in the crisper at the time, as ripening fruits and vegetables emit ethylene--which hastens the decline of cut flowers. So it's unfortunate that supermarkets usually display those flowers in the produce section! Refrain from smoking near the blooms as well, since ethylene is also present in cigarette smoke.

Of course, when I buy cheap flowers, it often occurs to me that the only reason I can do so is because South American greenhouse workers are being subjected to unsafe levels of pesticides--and inadequate wages. I can't blame the blooms for that, but I will be very happy when I can begin picking guilt-free daffodils again in April!

Photos: The photos are all my own--from cheap bouquets that I purchased at one time or another!