Growing Your Garden: Roses for your Valentine

Have you ever wondered where the custom of giving flowers, and more specifically roses, for Valentine’s Day began? The tradition dates back to the 17th century and roses were preferred because of their ancient connection to Venus, the goddess of love.

An interesting poll conducted by IPSOS, and included on the Society of American Florists website, offers some insight into our Valentine’s Day floral purchases.

Not surprisingly, Valentine’s Day is the No. 1 holiday for floral purchases, making up 30 per cent of all holiday purchases. Christmas / Hanukkah and Mother’s Day run a close second with 26 per cent of the purchases each.

Who is buying for Valentine’s Day? In 2019, roughly double the number of men over the number of women purchased flowers or plants for Valentine’s Day. According to the survey, men purchase Valentine’s Day flowers for romantic reasons, while women use the holiday to show their affection for their mothers, friends and children, as well as their sweethearts. The survey also found that women take advantage of the holiday to treat themselves to flowers (guilty!).

According to the survey, the most popular floral gift was roses (84 per cent) followed by other types of flowers such as tulips, carnations, lilies, mixed bouquets and potted plants.

At one time, the color of a rose conveyed a message: red symbolized passion and love; pink represented grace; yellow symbolized happiness; and white stood for purity and innocence. Today, red roses are the most popular color for St. Valentine’s Day giving, but the intended receiver’s favorite color, rather than tradition, should steer your choice of color. If your sweetheart prefers yellow, salmon, pink or white roses (or a combination of colors) they are all great choices.

When it comes to roses, my favorite roses are the old-time garden variety. For the cost of a bouquet of roses, you can purchase an easy care rose bush and enjoy the flowers for many years to come. If your sweetheart truly loves roses, why not offer to plant a rose (or several) for them this spring? Just think of the pleasure he or she will have cutting and arranging roses for many years to come.

Here are a few tried and true suggestions from my own Niagara garden.

Carding Mill, English shrub rose by David Austin, offers a gentle blend of pink, apricot and yellow colors that appear a warm apricot / orange and blend in bouquets with shades of pink and yellow roses. Featuring a delicate myrrh fragrance, the flowers appear on long, straight stems suitable for cutting, young foliage has a lovely bronze tint. In my Niagara garden, the first flowers appear later in the season, but they continue until the weather turns into late autumn. This rose will be happy in a sunny border, but it also works well in a container or pot in a smaller space. It will reach 1.4 x 1 meters.

Olivia Rose Austin, English shrub rose with an exceptionally long flowering season. Lush, cupped, mid-pink roses with a delicate, fruity fragrance. The plentiful flowers appear early in the season and repeat bloom well into the fall. This adaptable rose is suitable for pots and container growth and flower beds or mixed borders. The abundant flowers and shiny green foliage make fabulous bouquets. Last summer, my three-year-old Olivia Rose Austin was loaded with more than a hundred flowers in June. It was so heavy with flowers that I cut bouquets to share with neighbors and friends to lighten some of the limbs. This rose is listed as one of the most healthy and tolerant of roses in David Austin’s Catalog of Roses. Give this rose plenty of room, it will reach 1.4 meters high and one meter wide.

Moonlight in Paris, a hybrid tea rose by Clean ‘n’ Easy, has graced my front garden for the past three years. I couldn’t resist the romantic name, who doesn’t dream of seeing Paris lit by moonlight? Besides romance, this rose offers large blooms that age from deep apricot with a golden center to light pink. The fragrance is described as intense rose and fruit, to me, they smell divine. Moonlight in Paris is very hardy and blooms early and for a long season. My only complaint is that it suffers from the blackspot, so much so that I will be moving the bush to a less prominent spot in the back garden next spring. I’m going to give it a spot with more elbow room and hopefully, better air flow, to see if that resolves the black spot issue. The luxurious and very fragrant flowers are worth a little extra effort. Size 1.2 x 1 meter.

One of the hardiest roses in my collection, Bonica is a shrub rose that is both pretty and very tough. This rose has graced a corner of our front border for more than 20 years, and it continues to be a showstopper. Unlike the English roses, Bonica offers clusters of dainty, pale pink roses with burnished stems and foliage that is very disease resistant. As the first flush of blooms begin to fade, I resist the urge to deadhead the plant – a bountiful crop of showy red hips will follow in the autumn. The bush repeat blooms over a long season, and the hips last well into the winter. This year, I used the hips to decorate a wreath for the back deck. Once the cold weather arrived and food became scarce, robins and the local squirrel feasted on the hips. Bonica has a spreading, but neat, form that rarely needs pruning, 1.2 meters tall.

By all means, treat your Valentine to a pretty bouquet of flowers, but why not offer to plant a rosebush of his or her choice this spring? It’s a gift that will keep on giving for years to come.

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