Beyond Roses

What do you bring your flower-loving Valentine? Do you opt for the traditional dozen long-stemmed roses? If the recipient loves roses, that may well be your best option, even though it may set you back $50 or more. But if your sweetheart loves all kinds of flowers, you can do better than tradition.

I actually don’t like roses all that much—especially the ones you find in a florist’s shop. While wild roses are lovely, with their five petals and puff of stamens, hybrid teas seem a bit pretentious to my eye, and cabbage roses remind me of musty houses and old sofas. I don’t like how they smell (weird, I know.) And while the roses you buy have had their thorns removed, the thorns are a major reason I don’t include roses in my landscape.  

I’d much prefer a flowering plant. As my husband knows, I like my flowers to still have roots. There’s always the hope of a future rebloom. Phalaenopsis orchids, African violets, the various “holiday” cacti, and various begonias are just a few of many options . I’d recommend finding your pot of blooms at a garden center or greenhouse, rather than the florist shop. The prices are often lower, and the plants are chosen more for longevity than maximum impact. For example, azaleas look stunning in full bloom, but they don’t last long indoors. Orchids, on the other hand, may bloom for months before the flowers fade.

If you’d rather go with cut flowers, there are endless possibilities. Carnations are at the top of my list. I love carnations. They smell amazing—sweet and spicy, totally addictive. They last a long time—up to three weeks in a vase if you change the water when it starts to get cloudy. They come in a variety of colors, some of which are natural. (No, blue, green, and multi-hued carnations aren’t found in nature!) They’re readily available. And they’re pretty inexpensive.

Our older daughter loves lilies, another excellent choice. Their classic good looks complement most furnishings, and the range of color is dizzying. They, too, are long-lasting—up to two weeks. Chrysanthemums are another flower with a long vase life. They’ll keep for three to four weeks. Some are the pompom types you remember from those homecoming corsages, while others are humble daisies.

Don’t overlook the less popular flowers. Delphiniums are available all year, and their intense sky-blue is striking when combined with yellows and oranges. Or go for a more delicate combo of blue, pink, and white.

My two favorite flowers are not typically available at this time of year. Every summer I grow a cutting garden full of zinnias, so my sweetie can simply gather a bouquet from our backyard. And sadly, sweet peas don’t do well in Colorado, where early spring snows become hot summer almost overnight. Our other daughter, who lives north of Seattle, grows prolific vines by her front door. I just have to visit while they’re in bloom.

No matter the occasion, flowers are a wonderful way to say “I love you” all year long.

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