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Advice For Valentine’s Day From Mark Cullen

Roses for Valentines

I have been married for over 30 years to a wonderful, understanding woman.  This story is written with my experience, limited as it is, in mind.

As a man, there is no other annual ‘special occasion’ that tempts us to play it safe quite like Valentine’s Day.  To be clear, the celebration of our love for those nearest to us causes otherwise sane, bold men with a natural inclination to take risks to merely reach for one of the 3 safest material expressions of our affections: Roses, chocolate and lingerie.

I am here to suggest that this could be the beginning of a new decade of giving. One where you extend your desire to please and thrill your sweetie with a gift that truly is outside of the box.  One that reflects your sensitivity to her desires.

No Romeo.

My wife will tell you that I am no Romeo.  So let’s reflect together for a moment on the very popular tradition of giving long stem cut roses on Valentine’s Day.  We know that this is a crowd pleaser, but then, are you trying to please the crowd or your sweetheart?  And what is it that appeals to women about ‘a dozen’ long stem red roses?  Why a dozen?  Why red? Why cut flowers which die notoriously quickly relative to say carnations –which are cheaper and ‘stand up’ to the test of time for up to a month vs. 7 to 10 days for roses?   My answer is that I don’t know.

I am a guy too and I am equally paranoid about getting this wrong.  We are not meant to know the answers to simple questions like these.   Of greater importance is our willingness to explore the limits of our imagination together and who knows, maybe we will come up with something that is greeted as truly memorable.

It is not Giving: it is Thinking about the giving.

I do believe that it is important to understand this: your thinking of the answers can be more beneficial to your relationship than most anything else.

To get us started, some facts and suggestions:

Fact: Cut roses are not a cinch to grow.   That is why they are expensive.

Suggestion: This could be your cue to make the growing of roses as easy as possible.  Give her a rose garden.  For the price of a dozen long stems at this time of year (about $60 to $100 for quality ones) you can buy her 4 to 6 rose plants that will grow in our Canadian climate, produce not ‘a dozen’ but dozens of rose flowers at about the same cost.

Go One Step Further: Give her YOU.  Offer to dig the holes, prepare the soil for planting and if you are a real man, you will plant them for her too.

The ‘roses’ are best purchased in the form of a gift card from her favourite garden retailer.

Fact: Roses are a product of Nature.

Suggestion: maybe roses are not the be-all-and-end-all.  Maybe the attraction is the natural beauty of flowers generally.  Perhaps the ability of flowers to attract song birds, butterflies, hummingbirds and other wildlife is part of their magic.  How about giving her a garden!  Yes the whole enchilada.  I know that you are not a garden designer, but I can tell you where to find one.

Buy her a private consultation with a garden design professional [a member of Landsape Ontario] and let her take it from there.  Maybe there will be a new garden in your future, maybe not.  The point is that meeting face to face with a pro that has experience and passion for creating beautiful gardens will inspire and motivate your sweetie to plant something different this spring, to prune existing trees and shrubs with confidence, to combine plants that she would never have thought of.

Go to http://landscapeontario.com/find-a-company for a comprehensive list of garden designers.  Generally they charge a minimum of $200 to $300 per consultation and $60 to $90 an hour.

Fact: Roses are exotic.  They originated elsewhere.

Suggestion: notwithstanding the native ‘wild rose of Alberta’, roses as we know them in the garden originated in far reaching lands.  The Greeks wrote about them in poetry, Egyptians referred to them in hieroglyphics found in ancient tombs and the Chinese celebrate the rose as a source of good luck.

Give her a journey to another part of the world to see roses as neither of you have seen them before.  England is the home of modern day rose breeding.  Go to the famous rose breeding grounds of the David Austen Rose garden near Coventry (www.davidaustenroses.com).  Tour the rose gardens of Hampton Court (www.hamptoncourt.org.uk/).  If the timing works, take her to the annual Hampton Court Flower and Garden Show the first week of July.  It is the second largest exhibition of its’ kind in the world (the 1st is the Chelsea Flower Show in London, mid May).

Keep in mind that you do not actually have to travel all that far to find great rose gardens.  There is a fabulous collection of roses on the grounds of Rideau Hall in Ottawa where many of the winter hardy roses developed in Canada are on display for all to see (for free) and the Experimental Farm in Ottawa offers another colourful glimpse into rose breeding programs in Canada.

In Toronto there are some terrific rose gardens including Casa Loma (www.casaloma.org) and the formal gardens of High Park (free admission).

One more fact: it is not roses themselves that women love, it is what they represent.  More to the point, it is what giving them to her represents.  It is, after all, not something most of us do for our soul-mates on a regular basis.  So it is the extraordinary gesture of giving roses that makes the positive impression that you are hoping for.

One more suggestion: while thinking of giving her the ‘experience’ of long stem cut roses without necessarily giving a dozen of them, consider giving her 2 passes to Canada Blooms.  This is the largest and by far the most impressive annual ‘garden event’ in the country.  There will be roses, to be sure.

Give a couple of tickets to Canada’s premier flower and garden festival, a long stem red rose and maybe a dinner out.  What could be a better Valentine’s Day gift?  Except maybe your offer to accompany her to the Enercare Centre for the festival.

Dates for Canada Blooms are Friday, March 9 to Sunday March 18.

If the budget is not too tight who knows, there may be some cash left over for chocolates and lingerie.

Details at www.canadablooms.com

Article by Mark Cullen

About Mark Cullen
On July 1, 2016, Mark was awarded Member, Order of Canada ‘For his contributions to promoting and developing horticulture education in Canada and for his ability to explain how Canadians can protect the environment.’

Marks’ reaches over two million Canadians every week through various media outlets with a message that is distinctly Canadian.  He has a familiar style that people relate to.  He delivers a message that is compelling, fun, informative, inspirational – all based on his sustainable approach to gardening. Visit:  http://markcullen.com/

Mark also writes a ‘gardening feature’ column for the Toronto Star.  Look for his articles/question & answers/weekly tips in the New Homes and Condos section every Saturday. www.thestar.com/authors.cullen_mark.html