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Love is in the air… and Barty Phillips has some inspired ideas for making your Valentine’s Day gift a special one

Valentine’s Day demands something a bit special in the way of loving gestures. What should we give to persuade the loved one that our love is true? The powerful and the passionate used to create whole gardens for their beloveds. Nebuchadnezzar built the huge terraced gardens supported by enormous columns that were the Hanging Gardens of Babylon for a favourite Persian courtesan who was homesick for the mountains of her homeland. Did she appreciate them? Who can tell?

Few of us have the wherewithal or opportunity today of such wildly extravagant gestures to prove our love. However, we can emulate the idea. Why not fill the patio of your heart’s delight with pots of colourful flowering bulbs and shrubs with a potted palm to add an exotic touch. Hyacinths smell delicious at this time of year; tall red tulips can make the heart miss a beat; tiny dwarf rhododendrons and azaleas look spectacular when their abundant flowers completely cover the leaves. A splendid small azalea is Rhododendron simsii which has glossy dark green leaves and is absolutely covered in bright cyclamen-coloured flowers; R. ‘Bashful’ is one of the hardiest. Camellias, with their perfect flowers and shiny, healthy leaves are a good choice too.

Plants or flowers on their own are always acceptable, particularly if they carry a message. If you optimistically look to the relationship to grow and mature, give the light of your eye a red rose to plant in the garden giving years of delight. The yellow climbing rose ‘Wedding Day’ is healthy and vigorous, but perhaps that’s not quite the message you want to send. Perhaps you’d prefer the pillar rose ‘Bantry Bay’ with its showy clusters of blood-red blooms and glossy, dark green leaves: the patio rose ‘Fairy Rose’ is delicately pink, a long-term addition to a small garden or patio.

For immediate impact, cut flowers are the traditional way of showing your feelings. A bunch of red roses can hardly be bettered, particularly if they are scented. Roses at this time of year, though, often don’t smell at all, in which case, tulips can be just as telling. Florists are becoming much more imaginative with their colour-matching and bouquets in carefully chosen colourways such as reds and whites or blues and purples give lots of scope for indicating that you care. If you want something sweetly scented so you will be remembered with every breath, freesias will do the trick. Their trumpet-shaped flowers, usually rather discreet in colour are staggeringly sweetly scented. When buying flowers, don’t just buy one bunch, get three – get five – do it in style.

Perhaps the greatest commitment you could possibly make, short of actually building a garden for your inamorata, is to offer half of your own – a truly meaningful gesture. As the poet Thomas Moore wrote in 1835:

I have a garden of my own,

Shining with flowers of every hue,

I loved it dearly while alone

But I shall love it more with you…

our sumptuous range of romantic bouquets

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