Bah Humbug to NYT Dissing Flowers as Hostess Gift: 5 Tips

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By Jill Brooke

The New York Times recently said not to bring flowers as a hostess gift. But that advice missed several important points.

“A floral bouquet is a nice gesture, but if the host is in full dinner-prep mode without a spare inch of countertop space, they won’t have time to scramble for a vase,” wrote Lesley Stockton, who works at

Duh. Yes, that’s true. But who does that? It’s like bringing a cake without the frosting.

She suggested a potted plant as an alternative but to skip it if “your friend has a black thumb. Pick up their favorite champagne, whiskey or chocolate” instead and then find a place to put it.

Any bottle – be it champagne, whiskey or wine –  often is consumed at parties and finding a secret place to hide it is rarely accomplished and risky.  Chocolate? Yummy but caloric. Flowers are a non-caloric treat that lasts days and even months.

Here are 5 Tips for Flowers as a Hostess Gift:

Tip #1 –  Keep a Stash of Vases on Hand

Flower lovers know that vases solve the problem of offering a bouquet of flowers.  Just like you wouldn’t buy a print or a painting and present it without a frame, you don’t bring flowers unless you add a vase. Start collecting interesting vases. Vases up the wow factor of any arrangement and won’t leave the hostess scrambling for a receptacle.

The vase makes the flower arrangement look more personal and expensive. You can buy an inexpensive bunch of alstroemerias, lilies,  Gerber daisies or roses at under $10 a bunch and put it into an interesting vase that costs under $10 and you have a magnificent gift. All for less than most bottles of wine.

I got the above vase for $10 at T.J. Maxx and added a Poinsettia. I put it on a fun cake stand that I found there too. It’s funky, and funny. For the right friend, it could be a hit.

You can also shift flowers for a more interesting display if you use one type of flower in a clear vase.

Tip #2 – Local florists are Worth the Expense for Special Gifts

Go to any local florist and there are also beautiful arrangements already put in a vase or container that elicit smiles and gratitude from any hostess. No one stays in business for long who isn’t talented. These are artists who instead of paints use live stems.

When you buy from the name brand florists – Jeff Leatham, Juan Villaneuva, Lewis Miller or Michael Grin – who have cult followings like those who collect great wines, it’s also a special treat.

Photo Credit: Floral Petals of Westchester
Photo Credit: Jeff Leatham

In fact, I’ve been known to call up the hostess and ask her what her table decor will be for the evening and then find something that complements her style. Or better yet, have it delivered before the party with a thoughtful card.

Photo Credit: Michael Grin of Bridgehampton Florist

You can also send flowers the next day which also gives you insights into their color palettes if you haven’t seen the apartment or house. Arrangements don’t have to be put on the dining room table to be appreciated. There are always other rooms that benefit from a burst of color or soothing serenity from a flower arrangement.

Tip #3 – Collect Birch or Green Flower Ribbon to Line Vases for a Do-It-Yourself Arrangement

Birch or green ribbon – easily available on Amazon or garden sites for under $15 are special items to have on hand. The birch is great for winter months and the green ribbon is also water-resistant but effective. It hides the stems of flowers so you focus on the blooms.

Also, it’s great to have when you use faux flowers. Although faux flowers are produced with a remarkable likeness to live flowers, their stems give it away. With these ribbons lining the vase – which can be secured by tape – it solves that issue.

Tip #4 – An Orchid is your Go-To just like a Classic Navy Blazer or Black Dress

Orchids are now readily available in any supermarket for less than a bottle of good wine. Furthermore, they only require 3 ice cubes every week for maintenance and last months. The memory of your gift lingers for that time and is appreciated always.  I find an orchid the best hostess gift of all for that reason.

Plus you can also be creative. Add that vase to an orchid and bingo – you got a winner. (A little moss put in the cavity of the orchid or even a scattering of baby’s breath are wonderful additions).

My sister-in-law, Denise, used orchids and succulents for this lovely display.

Local florists also work magic with orchids that have a long shelf life. Here Villaneuva Designs show how orchids and a dyed leaf can be a stunning but simple design.

Photo Credit: Villaneuva Designs

Tip #5 – Buy Small Plants with Flowers

Fox Business News’ Jeannette Settembre recently interviewed me on the popularity of Millenials liking house plants. Because they are not buying houses – preferring smaller spaces and saving money for experiences – they are bringing gardening and nature indoors with easy to care for plants and flowers. In fact, Kate Penn, president of the Society of American Florists, said that 37 percent of millennials grow plants and herbs indoors.

So yes, succulents are the rage but I prefer them being mixed with flowering plants. African violets, begonias, peace lily or cactus. For these gifts, I also have moss ribbon on hand for added dazzle. Wrap it around the pot and it elevates the gift to something so much more unique and memorable.

Last but not least, put a little effort into your card. The hostess or host always reads it after the party. Telling the history of a flower and how this bloom may remind you of her or him is a nice touch. After all, as we say at Flower Power Daily, no act of love is ever wasted.

Jill Brooke is a former CNN correspondent, Post columnist and editor-in-chief of Avenue and Travel Savvy magazine. She is an author and the editorial director of FPD.

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