Home & Garden

Candy is dandy, but flowers have power

Though it seems like it was only yesterday, Christmas is long gone and Valentine's Day is approaching like a rocket. I say rocket because that is precisely what it will seem like for the guys who are procrastinating putting any thought into the project.

If you want to stay out of the proverbial doghouse then thought is required. Just remember the last time you showed up empty-handed. I am a chocolate nut myself but I am here to tell you: Candy is dandy but flowers have power. Your local garden center has some ideal choices for your sweetheart.

The perfect plant may be the cyclamen. The leaves are heart-shaped, variegated and glossy -- just right for Valentine's Day. But there is more. You simply cannot beat the cyclamen for the number of flowers it produces and its long period of bloom. It comes in the traditional holiday colors of red and white, but the shades of pink and purple will leave you mesmerized, as well. Rest assured you'll find this plant looking good a lot longer than a vase of cut roses.

The Reiger begonia is another great choice as a gift. The compact, bush shaped plant produces attractive foliage and a large number of blooms. The bright colorful flowers average two inches across and appear over a long season blooming for months. Try clustering a few of these around a garden bath. She will feel like she is in a resort atmosphere.

The hydrangea often sold for Mother's Day is also great idea for a Valentine's Day gift because of their hot pink color. After enjoying indoors they will be an attractive addition to the landscape and a pleasant memory for years to come. You could not ask for a more dazzling plant in the part sun garden.

Other good Valentine's Day plants are primulas that can be grown on the porch or inside and are sure to get you out of the winter doldrums with their bright festive colors. I am partial to the Primula acaulis hybrids. These are fairly short plants with short flower stalks, but they have colors that are so bold they almost look artificial. The Crayon, Lira and Quantum are the most popular in this group.

Lastly don't forget about roses. Instead of a bouquet, how about a landscape rose known for its enticing fragrance? Some of my favorites in this category belong to a group known as David Austin English roses. Look for Charles Darwin, an unbelievably fragrant yellow rose with the classic English look, or the equally showy Princess Alexandra of Kent, a stunning pink selection.

These can be planted out in the garden in full sun and will be among the showiest plants in the flower border. If you are lucky enough to partner alongside a white picket fence you will have created the Kodak moment.

Fellows don't go home empty handed on Valentine's Day. There is still time to put thought into the gift. I urge you to visit the local garden center to see a host of options that will surely bring a smile to your sweetheart's face.