Favorite Valentine Flowers

Choosing a favorite flower to share for Valentine’s Day is a difficult task. Dozens could be given with a list of reasons for each. But we’re trying to keep this simple. Perhaps it’s best to say we’re offering our first among equals as a way to celebrate Valentine’s Day, a holiday of love and flowers. Perhaps you have a favorite. Please tell us what it is and why.

Michael’s Pick: White Lily Tulip

The white lily flower tulip lacks fragrance, repeat bloom, multiplication, long flowering and longevity. However, this tulip with its simply elegant flower, excels at symbolizing my favorite time of year — spring. It blooms about the time crabapples and the pink dogwood are making spectacles of themselves. The spice bush is adding wispy charm and tantalizing fragrance, and common lilac perfumes the air. Foliage on sugar maples and other woody plants is emerging into a chartreuse haze, making the scene so lovely it almost hurts to gaze upon it. This type of tulip graces gardens far and near.  While walking the grounds of the Topkapi Palace Museum in Istanbul many years ago, I noticed a lily flower tulip bas relief on the metal plate of a small fountain. That’s one way to add elegance year round.

Debra’s Pick: Organic Purple Roses

In the language of flowers the rose is recognized as the classic expression of love: white for pure love or sympathy, pale pink for innocent or young love, yellow for friendship or jealous love, and red for desire and deep, sensual love.

The fragrance of roses takes me back to my childhood. My Nana was a rose grower and many of my earliest garden memories are of running around her garden being surrounded by the heady scent of roses. I remember Peace and Mister Lincoln and grew them in my early gardening life. I eventually let these two roses go as I was not willing to spray and fertilize these finicky hybrid teas, like my Nana did, to keep them looking “perfect”. 

Several years ago I found organic roses for sale on the internet and I bought lavender roses for Valentine’s Day. Their fragrance took me back to the beginning of my passion for plants and gardens. And this is appropriate: lavender roses symbolize enchantment and love at first sight.

Teresa’s Pick: Daffodils

In the depth of winter’s cold and snow, I dream of daffodils. While I may not go as far as dancing with daffodils like poet William Wordsworth, I do get a little scissor-happy cutting lots of bouquets to bring indoors or share with friends.  It’s no wonder the American Cancer Society adopted these cheery yellow blooms as the “flowers of hope” for the annual Daffodil Cancer Awareness Days. I first planted daffodils 20 years ago when we moved to the country. Since then I’ve planted dozens more especially after learning they were undesirable to hungry deer and immune to Ohio’s late spring snows and frosts.

Writing assignments about daffodil collectors – including Michael Leach — gave me further inspiration to plant more. I’m grateful these collectors shared valuable growing tips and pass along a few here: 1) plant them in the fall in clusters of six to eight, 2) avoid planting them in wet or irrigated places, 3) salvage flopping double daffodils by cutting short bundles and placing them in canning jars for support, 4) camouflage daffodils’ fading foliage by planting them near hostas or daylilies and 5) underplant taller daffodils with muscari.

Pick up a pot or bundle of daffodils at your favorite florist or even grocery store and share some hope with your Valentine for spring days ahead.

Gardens to Drive: Derby Town Winners

By Michael Leach

Red roses, frosty mint juleps and broad-brimmed garden party hats are all part of the scene in Louisville this weekend. Gardeners, however, find more than race hoopla to appeal whenever they visit this Ohio River metro area. And for those willing to venture up river about 40 miles,  a well-preserved Victorian town awaits that recalls a time when horses, not cars, were standard transportation.

But first a look at the venerable floral traditions at Churchill Downs. Besides appearing on hats and lapels, flowers — 400 red roses sown onto a swath of green satin — adorn the winning Derby horse. A bouquet of 60, long-stemmed, red roses are awarded to the winning jockey by Kentucky’s governor and other officials. Roses became a part of the race in 1896, when the winner received a bouquet of roses, according to kentuckydebrby.com. In 1925 by a New York sports columnist called the Derby the “Run for the Roses,” a nickname that stuck.

Not far from the glamor of Churchill Downs are bucolic settings that require no fancy dress.

Northeast of downtown Louisville is Yew Dell  Botanical Gardens, offering collections of dogwoods, beech, magnolia, viburnum holly and more. Add to this a vegetable garden, secret garden and walled garden and activities for children.

Yew Dell Botanical Gardens

The latter range from the weekly Children in the Dell Programs on Saturday mornings (April through October), to nature and garden backpacks stuffed with bug catchers, magnifiers, nature guides and more for free use while visiting. (Please visit www.yewdellgardens.org.)

Nature on an even grander scale awaits at Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest about 25 miles south of Louisville in Clermont Ky. (Please visit  www.bernheim.org.) There are 14,500 acres of mostly natural lands with hiking trails. The 600-acre arboretum was designed by the firm of Frederick Lawn Olmstead. It is planted with 8,000 plant species.

Among special areas are a rock garden and living roof experimental plantings. At the Garden Pavilion are a water feature, perennial garden and other theme gardens suitable for adapting to the home landscape. The Bloomfest Plant Sale is May 19.

Carriage rides in Madison, Ind.

For a step back in time, head to Madison, Ind.,  “the most beautiful river town in America,” according to Charles Kuralt. He hosted travel segments for years on CBS. Madison was also featured in the 2008 Best of the Midwest Magazine by Midwest Living. (Please visit visitmadison.org.)  Carriage rides are available for a slow and easy look at the array of 19th century architecture that houses restaurants, antiques and artisans’ studios. Hardly a match for a Derby entrant but speed isn’t everything.

Garden Topics

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