Many people buy cheap flowers online, but local florists think that's a false economy. Princess Diana's former butler Paul Burrell (right), who runs his own family flower shop in Cheshire, gives his view below — and shares his tips for buying perfect blooms.

I've owned a flower shop for over 10 years now. I've lived through some interesting times in the flower industry.

In these internet days, buying flowers online has become popular. But you may not be getting value for money. When buying flowers, it's prudent to shop wisely and think twice before buying on impulse.

During my 10 years as a florist, I've heard the same old story many times: "I sent flowers by the internet and wasn't happy with the result."

It may be easier to order online but it'll never compare to speaking directly to a local florist.

You really need to know which flowers are being sent on your behalf. Many people won't appreciate spray chrysanthemums or carnations — they're considered to be cheap flowers often found on garage forecourts.

What percentage of the cost is taken by the company for postage, packing and administration? The greater the service charge, the smaller the bouquet.

My tips

Here are a few points you should bear in mind...

  • Think about what you'd like to order and how much you'd like to spend. There's always something for everyone and sometimes a small potted bowl of bulbs can be just as effective and tasteful as a large presentation bouquet.
  • Be specific when ordering flowers. Ask for types of flowers or colours that are important to you. Let the florist know the ones which you don't like. For instance, some people have an aversion to the smell of lilies.
  • Remember that most florists will add a delivery charge, depending on the distance, so looking online for a florist in the town you're delivering to will be most cost-effective.
  • Look for creativity, presentation and a personal service as well as value for money.

Aqua bouquets, those which are already arranged and presented in their own free-standing box, are a popular choice.

Tips for beautiful blooms

Roses are the quintessential English flower and, of course, are synonymous with romance, but they can be a minefield if you aren't sure what you're looking for. If you plan to send roses, know which variety of rose you'd like to send.

In my opinion, Grand Prix roses are the best and longest-lasting red roses. They open to a full bloom, are deep, velvety red, and should last up to 10 days.

If you prefer yellow roses — as Princess Diana did — the best to send would be a variety called Illios.

If pink is your preference, then you won't go wrong by choosing a variety called Heaven, while for those who love white roses, I'd choose a variety called Avalanche.

Most bouquets of flowers don't come with instructions, so I thought it might be useful to give you a few pointers as to how to keep your flowers fresh.

  • The stems which are to be in water should be stripped of all leaves and recut at an angle.
  • Flower food added to the water will feed the flowers and cause them to bloom quicker, but a teaspoon of sugar dissolved in the water is just as efficient.
  • A drop of bleach added to the water for lilies and chrysanthemums will stop any bacteria or odour developing.
  • Keep your flowers away from direct sunlight and heat.
  • Change the water and recut the stems every three days.
  • Always unwrap the cellophane around the flowers as soon as possible, as condensation will rot the leaves and flowers.
  • As lilies open, always remember to remove the stamens as the pollen stains indelibly.

So don't forget, for that personalised, knowledgeable service, I'd choose a local florist.

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