Get out all the information you will need to order the flowers: charge card, name, and address, and phone number of the person to whom you are sending flowers.
Find a florist on the Internet trying to match zip codes with the recipient of the flowers to cut delivery charges. There is no point in paying an extra delivery charge to a florist in another city who is trying to expand their territory. Make sure the florist has an actual address and shop and NEVER order from one that only has a phone number. Under no circumstances order from a place like 1 800 Flowers as all they do is call a local florist and take a (substantial) cut of the money you pay for the arrangement.
Look at the on line pictures of the florist’s floral arrangements to get an idea of what he/she has to offer and familiarize yourself with the flowers. Do NOT order one of these arrangements; the florist will reserve the right to substitute and you will probably not get what you think you are ordering. Everything in the arrangement cost something including ribbon, container, balloon, stuffed animals and whatever else you see, so decide ahead if you want to put your money into an accessory rather than the flowers themselves.
Decide how much you want to spend before you call. Accept the fact that you are going to have to pay local sales tax and a delivery charge of $5.00 or more in addition to the price of the flowers. The sales person will ask you how much you want to spend and they are not counting the tax and delivery when you give your price point.
Buy what is in season and avoid flowers that are scarce or in high demand at the time you are buying. For example, roses are very expensive around the Christmas holidays and even more expensive at Valentines Day but can be quite inexpensive at other times. If you have no idea what might be in season, call the florist and ask what they have on hand. My opening question always is, “What flowers do you have in the cooler right now?” Florists will generally not stock flowers that are out of season.
Buy flowers in a vase rather than in a basket because they will last longer. The foam in a basket is a great invention for the flower arranger but the flowers are not able to get the water they need as easily as if they were in a vase of water. The cheapest way to buy flowers is in a bouquet (not in a vase or basket) but your recipient will then have to supply the container. This is not a problem for many people and so your money can go into flowers rather than into the vase. The florist will arrange such a bouquet beautifully and the recipient can just drop the whole bouquet into the vase. I would not hesitate to do this as a birthday present to a friend or family member but would never send this for a funeral or to someone at their office.
In general, you get more bang for the buck if you order an arrangement of all one kind of flower. For example, an arrangement of all yellow snapdragons, 6 or so stems of Oriental lilies, or a vase of only white daisies. Vase or basket arrangements of different kinds of flowers will contain a lot of filler flowers such as mums, mini carnations and statice. If you like that look (as seen in Teleflora or FTD ads) go ahead and order a mixed arrangement.
A note on Teleflora, FTD, and other floral wire services. They have some good points and do protect you from out and out scams but you are paying quite a bit for that service. They are also in the container business so many of their featured arrangements involve a substantial part of the price going for the container. In my experience, most people give the containers away or throw them out and I have been the recipient of many of them.
Don’t hesitate to call various florists and price the flowers (and delivery charge). Prices vary enormously as does the selection of flowers a florist is likely to have on hand and what flowers he needs to move. During wedding season, a florist may have left over wedding flowers that have already been paid for but need to be sold and you could be the lucky buyer.
No matter how well you know the recipient of the flowers, have your name on the card that goes with them. You would be surprised at the problems that can arise when there is no name or the card reads “Your lover”.