Years ago, I trained and worked as a florist for four years. My father was a florist with a business in NZ for 52 years: the longest standing florist in the country! I love to be surrounded by plants and flowers in the home but it's an expensive luxury. I therefore am always looking for inexpensive alternatives.
Wild flowers on the commons in London are gorgeous (commons are parks, to anyone outside the UK!). Just check first if there is a sign saying you can't pick the flowers as I saw the sign as I walked past with a huge bunch of cow parsley, borage and other wild flowers. Lucky no parks police around to arrest me!
It's not always about vases crammed with flowers and loads of colour. In some of the photos, I have used the flowers from my pots of herbs — mint, marjoram and oregano — which have the most stunning, subtle colours.
I also pick stems of lavender from my window boxes and tiny daisies from another pot. Their delicate and subtle colours and stems need tiny vases to show them off.
Supermarkets are full of cut flowers and plants for sale and it's hard to walk past the display without being tempted to buy something. However they always look forced and the colours slightly unnatural.
Alstromeria (Peruvian lillies) are a great buy as they are the longest lasting cut flower. You should get at least 2 weeks out of them. I always squeeze the maximum life out of my flowers. Cutting flowers shorter and putting in a smaller vase is a good way to get a few more days out of your flowers as I have done in the photo below with the remainder of the Alstromeria and lilies.
They also look totally different than they did when you had them in a tall vase with long stems!
Gladioli are very inexpensive when in season. They were so 70s but seem to have made a comeback in the last year.
Always add a drop of bleach to the water (I never add that sachet they give you to the water; it's useless). The bleach will stop the water smelling bad and more importantly it stops the vase getting water marks.