Nothing says ‘I love you’ better than flowers, says Jane Moore. Forget thoughts of clichés and over-sentimentality, and bring sunshine in the form of flowers to romance your partner this February
Call me an old romantic, but love is undeniably in the air this month. I know Shakespeare called music “the food of love,” but if that is the case then surely flowers are the garnish. For flowers go hand in hand with romance from Robbie Burns’ “My love is like a red, red rose” to children plucking the petals off a daisy as they chant “he loves me, he loves me not”. All in all, it makes for one of the busiest dates in the florist’s calendar.
Flowers are the classic go-to Valentine’s gift, especially given that the inevitable post-Christmas dieting puts a box of chocolates out of the question. Sadly, though, I hardly ever get given flowers: “I’m bound to get you some you don’t like”, bewails Paul. “You know way more about flowers than I do!”
That’s true and I will confess to being a bit fussy too, so I can’t blame him for opting out. So if, like me, you won’t be getting any flowers this February, then hang tradition and treat yourself to a nice bunch. Or suggest to your better half that perhaps a little something for the garden on the theme of love would be a welcome and sustainable alternative.
As for the more creative, then set out with your secateurs and gather your own garden bunch, augmented perhaps with a few special blooms from the flower shop. And, while we’re foregoing tradition, why not step away from the classic gender stereotypes and give even if you don’t receive – you will both reap the benefits anyway.
I urge you to think outside the box and not go for the typical bunch of red roses – not only is it a cliché, it’s a bit boring and, frankly, ludicrously expensive in the run up to Valentine’s Day. Actually, all red flowers are criminally dear as the 14th approaches, so ring the changes in terms of colour. Think passionate pink rather than raunchy red and you’ll save a fortune and get much more style and choice for your money.
Among the pink flowers that are readily available to buy, I have a sneaking fondness for carnations, both the dainty little sprays and the big, blousy fat-headed ones. These come in some delightful pink shades, from the softest, cherry blossom pink to rich berry shades. Combine these with some leafy green foliage from the garden, such as evergreen shrub Viburnum tinus, which may also be showing a few dainty pink flowers itself, and you have a good fulsome bunch.
Classic spring flowers such as tulips and hyacinths are so easy to come by and are foolproof favourites with just about everyone. If you are completely clueless as to what someone would like, then a bunch of elegant tulips is a surefire winner. Think about the colours carefully and you can create something really quite stunning. For example, some hot pink tulips intermingled with fiery orange ones makes quite a statement, while sugared almond pink with white is fresh and delicate.
On that theme a hand-picked simple bouquet of hellebores, dainty fragrant white narcissi – home-grown or shop bought – and a few stems of variegated Euonymus or Pittosporum are always guaranteed to raise a smile. Hellebores – which are slightly ‘going over’ when the stamens have faded – always last better than fresh new flowers, especially if you dip the freshly cut stems in hot water before arranging them.
A little bit of sunshine
A splash of sun goes an awfully long way
in these dreary winter days and the sunny colour palette of fresh yellows, whites and greens makes for a guaranteed lift of those wintry, water-logged spirits. Nothing says spring promise more than narcissi and they’re absolutely one of my all-time favourite cut flowers. I know, I’m a cheap date, really! If you feel creative, combine white and yellow scented narcissi with fresh foliage such as ferns or a handful of cut hazel stems dripping with bushy tailed catkins. If you don’t, then simply place a bunch of bog-standard, bright yellow daffs in a jolly jug or glass vase – if the container is blue, then all the better as the colours complement one another. They make me think of the sunny days and blue skies to come.
Gifts for the gardener
If you are stuck with a partner that is as particular as me, then it may be wise to simply pick something for the garden. Bird boxes and feeders always go down well as do potted bulbs such as narcissi and hyacinths as I can plant them out in the garden afterwards.
Alternatively a present of a peony, clematis or rose to plant is always lovely and if it has a romantic name, then all the better. Think of the lovely peonies such as Paeonia lactiflora ‘Bowl of Beauty’ or P.l. ‘Bowl of Love’ which are great additions to any garden, however small.
Another plant you can always find space for is a clematis. There are hundreds of great varieties, but if you’re looking for something on a romantic theme then seek out Clematis ‘Romantika’ with its deep purple flowers, C. ‘Forget Me Not’ with powder blue, crumpled flowers or the herbaceous C. heraclefolia ‘New Love’ with deep blue, almost hyacinth-like blooms.
As for roses, that classic Valentine’s staple, there are lots with romantic associations including some real beauties such as David Austin’s Rosa ‘The Generous Gardener’ with soft pink flowers and the sweetheart rose, otherwise known as R. ‘Cecile Brunner’, one of my all-time favourite roses with its dainty perfect flowers which appear reliably, often over an enormously long season.
If you want to make your intentions abundantly clear then perhaps the best choice is R. ‘My Valentine’ or R. ‘Grand Amore’. There is nothing subtle about this ruby red hybrid tea rose with its large, classically formed flowers that say romance so much better than their short-lived cut flower cousins. True romance is best served when driven by genuine inspiration and thoughtfulness. So avoid the clichés and get a little more creative this Valentine’s Day.
Jane Moore is an award-winning gardening columnist and head gardener at The Bath Priory Hotel. Twitter:@janethegardener