Chic on the cheap: Spring flowers

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Beth Engelman holds a vase stuffed curley willow while making a floral arrangement Feb. 21, 2013 at Mariano's Fresh Market in Arlington Heights . | Rob Hart~Sun-Times Media

Flower fun for families

March 9-17 is the Chicago Flower & Garden Show at Navy Pier. The show promises to be inspirational and educational and will offer a number of free events and activities for families, including “make and take” demonstrations, an indoor playground, and arts and crafts activities led by the Girl Scouts and Make-a-Wish Foundation.

There will also be potting parties, kid-friendly flower arranging classes, and even a seminar on fairy gardening.

For more information, visit

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Tired of the gloomy weather? Brighten your home and your spirits with fresh flowers.

Not only are flowers a good reminder of warmer weather, but they’re also a simple and inexpensive way to add a pop of color or a touch of elegance to any room. Best of all, you don’t need a green thumb to arrange flowers as long as you follow these easy tips.

Express Yourself

“When creating an arrangement, choose flowers that appeal to your taste and aesthetic,” said Diane Mondella, floral expert at Mariano’s Fresh Market in Arlington Heights ( “Keep things simple by creating a monobotanical bouquet, which means using only one type of flower,” she added.

This approach works particularly well with alstroemeria, also known as a Peruvian lily.

To get the most out of your bouquet, keep the stems short and place them in a pretty vase or container. When grouping different flowers together, choose colors that complement each other or group flowers in varying shades of the same color.

Think Outside the Box (Vase)

“Get creative by swapping your vase with more interesting containers,” Mondella said.

Mason jars, recycled cans and vintage tins add rustic charm while champagne flutes and pretty carafes create a festive feel. For a kid-centric arrangement, Mondella recommends adding flowers to the back of a toy dump truck (with floral foam and moss) or surrounding a square vase with wooden blocks or Legos.

Add an Element of Surprise

When it comes to creating arrangements, Mondella likes to add interest and color with fruits and vegetables.

“At Mariano’s, we often pair citrus-colored flowers with citrus fruit such as lemons or oranges,” she said.

For an artful arrangement, try pairing peonies with purple carrots and artichokes. Simply attach wooden skewers to the vegetables and secure them in your arrangement with floral foam. You can also add natural elements to the inside of a glass vase by using palm leaves or curly willow.~

Tried-and-true tips to help flowers last longer

We asked our favorite floral experts to share their best tips:

Don’t have flower food? Try adding a teaspoon of sugar or ¼ cup of 7UP to the vase water.

Change vase water every two or three days.

Tulips love copper, so place a penny (pre-1980) to vase water before adding blooms.

Remove all leaves that fall below the water line.

Add a few drops of bleach to vase water to keep the water bacteria-free.

Roses need warm water.  

When placed in water, tulips not only thrive, but they grow!

Woody stems (such as roses) need to be cut on an angle.