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Special section Thrifty gifting

Surprise! More flowers are bought for Xmas than Mother's Day -- how to buy and how to save.

Flowers: The perfect gift at any price

Flowers: The perfect gift at any price

"Using the Internet to relay an order is expensive," Marinelli says. "Some of the online sites really take advantage of consumers."

The other option for delivery is transmitting the order to a florist in the recipient's city via a local florist. You will have to pay a $5 to $7 wire-service fee, but that's still about half of a typical online fee.

Using a local florist also gives you an advocate, Marinelli says.

"You have a place to go back to if there's a problem. There is accountability built in," she says. In addition, online sites often tout arrangements, also known as expressions, that feature costly out-of season flowers and containers, says Marinelli. A florist can guide a buyer not only to what is in-season but what's actually in  their cooler, eliminating the time and cost to source what an order gatherer sold.

"In my estimation, a good professional florist can convey the same expression in flowers for at least $25 less than it would cost to send the expression by an online order gatherer," Marinelli says.

Marinelli does not recommend any floral Web sites, but Goodman recommends, run by TelaFlora. He says all florists on it are genuine florists, not order-gatherers.

"The world is going toward online ordering," he says.

Stewart recommends Organic Bouquet, which represents one of the newest floral trends this holiday season: Bouquets labeled as fair-trade certified or sustainably grown.

"The Whole Foods and the Trader Joe's of the world are selling a lot of those flowers," says Stewart, who cited Trans Fair USA and VeriFlora as among two organizations leading the drive to better inform consumers about where their flowers are coming from -- 78 percent of cut flowers are imported -- and who handles them along the way.

Combined, the two organizations claim to have certified almost 2 billion stems. Stewart has visited VeriFlora-certified farms in Latin America and says the flowers are better quality, too.

"That's a really positive change that has just happened this year, in 2007," she says. "It has taken the flower industry a long time to figure out they have to get out in front of the issue. It should be the greenest industry out there."

-- Posted: Dec. 7, 2007
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