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For a unique alternative to red roses, Baron Faust, manager at Johnson’s Florist & Garden Centers, suggests heart-shaped anthuriums. These dramatic tropical flowers ($4.99 to $8.99) come in a variety of bright colors and last up to two weeks. Faust also likes heliconias, which have long stems sporting waxy red leaves with pointed yellow tips; gingers, fuzzy grapefruit-size flowers with hundreds of sturdy, layered pink petals; and proteas, which have fuzzy pink leaves and a tightly wound ball of white seeds scrunched in the center.
Johnson’s Florist & Garden Centers, 4200 Wisconsin Ave., NW; 202-244-6100; also in Kensington, Olney, and Gaithersburg.
Heavenly Hydrangeas’ Susan Poneman likes monochromatic arrangements with flowers of different textures and sizes. For example, an all-white arrangement of large peonies and fluffy hydrangeas mixed with medium-size parrot tulips, delicate spray roses, and round, clustered berzillia or snow berries, would make an elegant bouquet. She says that arrangements with one type of flower—such as ranunculus, an “amazingly delicate and lush” multipetaled flower—in different shades also work well. Poneman likes to place flowers in glass vases wrapped in silk ribbon of a similar shade or, for a more dramatic look, a contrasting color. As for vase shape? “Cubes used to be really in, but I’d say cylinders are a little more in now.”
Heavenly Hydrangeas, McLean; 703-534-1308.
If you’re on a budget, Gerbera daisies ($3 a stem) are a popular choice. These “happy flowers,” as Citiflowers designer Leman Mitchell calls them, are simple and come in brilliant oranges, reds, and yellows. Sometimes people come in to get just one. Other flowers that look lovely and won’t break the bank? A bouquet of irises ($2 a stem), which have a big, open bloom commonly in shades of purple or tropical orange, and blue birds of paradise ($5 a stem), which “look like the crest of a peacock.”
Citiflowers, 1400 L St., NW; 202-842-3092
Helen Olivia owner Marianne Raub recommends vibrant tulips, which cost $2 to $3 a stem, as a striking alternative for your Valentine. She also loves cymbidium orchids ($35 to $70), which have 10 to 15 dark-pink flowers per stem and last two to three weeks.
Helen Olivia, 222 North Lee St., Alexandria; 703-548-2170
Jose Coffey, owner of McLean’s Art With Flowers, says wrapping stems with ribbon or leaves and decorating them with anything from buttons to diamonds adds a personal touch. His favorite blossoms for Valentine’s Day are elegant white tulips and orange and burgundy lilies. If you decide to go with roses, Coffey recommends a twist on the traditional red rose, such as Baccara or Black Magic roses, which are a deep burgundy.
Art With Flowers, 1750 International Dr., McLean; 703-903-6837
For a flower that will last long after Valentine’s Day, orchids are a good bet. Orchids for You specializes in the exotic plants. Owner Tom Pho says the most popular variety is the phalaenopsis orchid ($15 to $45), which comes in lavender, pink, and red and has six to eight blooms per stem. Each bloom lasts two to three months. Pho also recommends the fragrant cattleya orchids ($42.50 to $60), which have four-to-six-inch blossoms in a variety of colors and last two to four weeks. A miniature version is also available (starting at $15). For a fire-engine-red orchid that will bloom for four to six weeks, try oncidium orchids ($20 to $40), better known as Dancing Ladies or Dancing Dolls.
Orchids for You, 390-B Maple Ave. E., Vienna; 703-255-5125
Any flower with lots of petals says romance, according to Multiflor owner Nick Perez. Some of his favorites: sweet peas, which have tissue-paper-like petals and come in shades of pink, lavender, and white; ranunculus in burgundy or dark eggplant; and ruffled peonies. Perez avoids mixing more than two or three flowers in any arrangement, and he likes to add unexpected touches such as red feathers or wheat grass.
Multiflor, 8300-F Merrifield Ave., Fairfax; 703-645-0090
If your Valentine always stops to smell flowers, Amaryllis owner Rick Davis recommends fragrant pink or lavender hyacinths, which have a thick stalk and lots of little blooms forming an oblong shape. Other fragrant flowers include lily of the valley, tiny white bell-shaped flowers that hang from a thin stem, and narcissus, white or cream miniature daffodils. Davis adds that sticking with one type of flower gives arrangements a dramatic, elegant look.
Amaryllis, 1625 Eckington Pl., NE; 202-259-2230