Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Valentine’s Day Flowers Bring Year-round Romance

Valentine’s Day is nearly here and is an excellent time for us to slow down a bit from our busy, hectic schedules and express affection for family and friends. Whether it’s a husband, wife, significant other, close friend, relative, grandchild or just a nice neighbor, there are so many ways that express, “I care for you.” Valentine’s Day is the perfect excuse to show you care.

Of course, there are the usual box of chocolates, greeting cards, dinner on the town or even diamonds!

According to national surveys, Valentine flowers and plants are popular in expressing your feelings, too. Most even have a Victorian meaning attached. If you select flowers or plants as your Valentine gift, you will have the fun of presenting one that often conveys a very sentimental meaning.

Valentine’s Day has been a part of history from early pagan times. It actually started with the festival of Lupercalia to honor Juno Februata – goddess of feverish love.

With the spread of early Christianity, Lupercalia was frowned upon.

Pope Gelasius did away with the festival of Lupercalia, citing that it was pagan and immoral. He chose St. Valentine as the patron saint of lovers, who would be honored at the new festival on the 14th of every February, the day he had been martyred. It was soon replaced with a ritual for romance and is celebrated mostly in England, France, Austria, Germany and the United States.

As sentimental gifts go, greeting cards didn’t appear for Valentine’s Day until the beginning of the 19th century. Actually, there had been earlier valentine greeting cards in the late 1700s, but they were so racy that many prudish Victorians were shocked by them. Even in the late 19th century, the post office in Chicago rejected some 25,000 cards on the grounds that they were not fit to be carried through the U.S. mail. Tasteful, lacey valentine cards appeared in the 1870s when the card-giving practice was widely accepted. Today, Valentine cards are the second most popular, ranked right after Christmas cards.

Cadbury Brothers discovered how to make chocolate even smoother and sweeter than ever before and, by 1868, they were turning out the first boxed chocolates. Boxes were elaborately made of velvet and mirrors and retained their value as trinket boxes after the chocolate was gone. Richard Cadbury created the first heart-shaped Valentine’s Day box of candy some time around 1870; the idea was popular and continues today.

Giving of flowers and plants to your favorite Valentine is not, regrettably, based on any ancient or colonial America practices, but rather a brainstorm by the floral industry. The idea evidently worked, as Valentine’s Day ranks as the No.1 holiday for sales of fresh flower purchases with 36 percent of all holiday sales and 40 percent of the holiday dollar volume. Today, Valentine’s Day ranks near the top in the sales and giving of plants and flowers.

Of those purchasing valentine flowers or plants, 60 percent were men and 40 percent were women. Men reported their purchase for romantic reasons, while women used the plant/floral purchase to show they cared for their mothers, daughters and friends as well as their sweethearts. For all valentine plant purchases, nearly 50 percent were a gift for spouses, 26 percent went to mothers, 20 percent  to significant others and 11 percent to a friend or acquaintance. Self, other relatives, child, grandparent, sister and father all ranked in the single digits.

Traditionally, long-stemmed, red roses are associated with Valentine’s Day. In recent years, however, carnations, tulips, azaleas and other flowers are catching up in popularity. Sweetheart or miniature roses are not as expensive as the long-stemmed rose varieties and come in the same range of colors such as red, pale pink, white, cream, lavender, peach and yellow.

If you are looking for a plant that will extend beyond Valentine’s Day to brighten the gloomy, winter days for the next couple of months, look for potted tulips, azaleas, cyclamens, chrysanthemums or perhaps kalanchoe. There should be a good selection at your garden center, nursery, greenhouse or even the supermarket. When making your selection, select a plant with many buds about to open rather than one in full bloom. Be sure to check buds, blossoms and undersides of the leaves for any sign of disease or insect pests.

Wrap the flowers and plants well to protect against the cold as you transport then from the store to home. Double-bagging over the plant should work well; then transport directly home.

As you prepare to give the plant, include a note with care instructions: a reminder that mentions the need to keep the plant well watered, but not over-watered, and out of drafty areas. Generally, the best temperatures should be 45 to 55 degrees at night and 65 to 70 degrees during the day, if possible. If there is foil or cellophane on the container, it should either be removed, or have holes punched in the bottom for good drainage.

For those romantics who want to go beyond selecting a specific type of flower and color, there are Victorian meanings that are commonly associated with them. Red roses show love, red carnations carry the meaning, “My heart aches for you,” red tulips are a declaration of love and red chrysanthemums signify, “You’re a wonderful friend.” Daisies simply reflect innocence.

Remember those you’re close to and consider the message that plants and flowers have to offer. Enjoy Valentine’s Day.

Feel free to direct your gardening questions to me via the Springville Journal.

Leo Lubke is a Master Gardener and a member of the Garden Writers Association.

Seasonal gardening tip: If you can’t make up your mind which flower or plant is best to give, consider a gift certificate for a rose bush from a favorite nursery or mail order supplier. When the proper planting time arrives, the plant can be picked up or will be mailed for outdoor planting.

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