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Flowers offer solutions to shopping dilemmas
By Norman Winter
Central Mississippi Research & Extension Center
Valentine's Day and other special days can invoke concern, confusion and heart-pounding fear in macho men everywhere. If you are remembering the chaos around the picked-over displays at the card store last year or if you are considering chocolates, let me tell you, "Candy is dandy, but flowers have power."
The easiest place to shop and find the perfect gift is at the local garden center. The crowds are smaller and you will find plenty of relaxed, courteous staff to help. You may be thinking about beautiful cut flowers, but by their nature, they are not designed to last all that long.
Instead, consider a blooming plant that will last for weeks. One of the best choices is the cyclamen. This may be the perfect Valentine's Day present in that the foliage is heart shaped with striking silver variegation. If that was not enough, the plant is topped off with gorgeous, butterfly-shaped flowers in traditional Valentine colors of red, pink, white and burgundy. Cyclamen loves this time of the year in the South when it is cool.
Another good choice would be the primula, or primrose. Once you see these vibrant colors, it is hard to imagine them not bringing a smile to anyone's sweetie. Primulas will produce their colorful flowers non-stop until May. Now, compare that to cut flowers.
While tuberous-type begonias do not do so well in the South during the summer, they do offer exceptional floral beauty with exquisitely shaped blossoms in colors that will bring cheer to anyone who gazes at them. This is the best time of the year to have several of these around the house getting you primed for spring.
Cut roses make great gifts and have probably gotten more guys out of the doghouse than diamonds. For a really clever idea, buy the cut roses which will give immediate satisfaction and get a rose bush or two that will serve as a reminder of your undying love for years to come.
Rose bushes are being potted right now at garden centers all across the state. The quality is superb, and the selections are greater than in previous years.
If you feel unsure about which roses to select or about their care, talk to the nurseryman. Some of my all-time favorites are David Austin English roses. These disappear from the stores quickly each season. Most of these roses are large, vigorous, shrub-type roses with an old garden or cottage garden look. As a group, they have the best fragrance in roses today. There are even a lot of choices in this group.
Austin groups his roses into five strains. The first he calls the Old Rose strain, and it has the species Rosa gallica in its breeding. Roses like Wife of Bath and Mary Rose fall into this group. Also included is one of my favorites, L.D. Braithwaite, named after David Austin's father-in-law. L.D. Braithwaite is a deep red that repeated nicely in my garden. Many don't realize the David Austin group has some nice red selections. In addition to L.D. Braithwaite, other good red ones are Wenlock and Fisherman's Friend.
The second group is the Heritage strain. These roses are related to a popular floribunda, Iceberg, and include Heritage, Perdita and the ever-popular Graham Thomas. The third is the Portland strain named after the Portland group of roses. Two of the famous roses in this group are Gertrude Jekyll and the Countryman.
Gloire De Dijon is the name of the fourth strain, and it's an old Noisette rose. Jayne Austin, Sweet Juliet and Evelyn are examples of this strain. Evelyn is heavenly in fragrance and was chosen by Crabtree and Evelyn to be used in some of their product lines. The final strain is Aloha, a modern day climbing rose. Charles Austin and my favorite, Abraham Darby, are examples of this strain.
Any of these would be great. What would not be great is going home empty-handed! Shop now.