Valentine day's romantic Flower alternatives

PUBLISHED: 14:19 12 January 2010 | UPDATED: 15:44 20 February 2013

Vanda orchid 'Blue Magic'

Vanda orchid 'Blue Magic'

As Valentine's Day approaches, Linda Viney considers some romantic floral alternatives to the familiar red roses as an expression of love

February can be a mixed month of cold, wet and frost, interspersed with welcome breaks of sunshine. Also, of course, it is a romantic month, with Valentine's Day falling in the middle. Although the tradition is to give a red rose to the one you love, there is perhaps a little more scope as the day has become more commercialised. So why not give a longer lasting flower, like an orchid? Orchids have been found all over the world with one exception, Antarctica. Mentioned by the Ancient Chinese philosopher Confucius, their history is believed to stretch back much further. In Victorian times they were a luxury item and status symbol, and collectors became increasingly obsessive, sending plant hunters all over the world with examples changing hands at 1,000, an enormous amount of money back then. Sir Joseph Paxton was responsible for designing the Orchid House for the Duke of Devonshire at Chatsworth - he and many of the plant hunters of the time are remembered through the species of orchids named after them.
Hidden away in the streets of Barnard Castle, botanist Dr Richard Warren has hundreds of orchids growing in bottles (or more correctly 'flasks'). From the dust-like seeds of these exotic plants he shoots and roots them in a totally sterile environment, bringing them on for commercial growers and enthusiastic hobbyists to cultivate thereafter. Orchids have a reputation for being difficult to grow but, thankfully, they are becoming increasingly available from garden centres and specialist nurseries. Special nutrients and compost are on the shelves and by following the care labels, flowers will give pleasure for a long time and the plant will last for many years - a valuable and rewarding asset to any home. The extremely beautiful flowers of the Phaleonopsis - Moth orchid - are found in a numerous array of colours. Another way to celebrate Valentine's Day would be to plant a 'tree for life'. Imagine the thrill of knowing a tree had been planted just for you. There are also plants with a personal as well as its botanical name. For example, I have a Rhododendron 'Linda' in
my garden, and iris and roses have a huge number of personal names, as do clematis and sweet peas - ask around. Garden sheds come into their own at this time of year, whether still in the process of being completed, like the Daily Telegraph garden shed winner in 2007 with his 'Unfinished Shed', or like mine which needs a good spring clean ready for the start of the gardening season. If you feel like a break away, the refurbished Fallen Angel Hotel in Durham has an experience all garden lovers will dig in one of their themed rooms. Le Jardin suite will give you the opportunity of taking a sauna in your room, treading out to the balcony on an artificial grass carpet and sleeping under a tree. Your clothes can be hung in a garden shed, thankfully without the debris. If you do treat yourselves to a stay at the hotel, while in Durham visit the beautiful 18-acre Botanic Gardens in the outskirts of the
city. Think about becoming a 'Friend of the Garden', which was established in 1982 to support the work and encourage a wider appreciation of the garden. Once a month they have a guided tour followed by coffee and biscuits and time to chat.With arranged talks and garden visits it is well worth the 18 for couples and families, or 12.50 for an individual, which includes free admission. Honey bees pollinate popular fruit crops, such as apples and pears, as well as wild and garden plants. As we have read in the news, these bees are in decline and well known garden personality Charlie Dimmock has published a list of ten shrubs recommended to attract this precious insect to our gardens. So try to ensure you have at least one in your garden to give the bees the nectar and pollen they need. The list includes Ceonothus, which is a joy with its blue
flowers, thyme, which you can make into a wonderful carpet tapestry, and lavender, which always attracts a profusion of bees. The latter two can be planted on a windowsill or in a container if you only have a small plot. The joy of sowing seeds and planting the plug plants you have ordered can lift the spirits. Just remember though, it is still winter and only do this if you have a heated greenhouse or large windowsill. Happy gardening and enjoy.

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