Love grows on Valentine’s Day

Pieris Katsura, available from Hillier Garden Centres.
Pieris Katsura, available from Hillier Garden Centres.
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So, what to get your green-fingered loved one on Valentine’s Day? Of course, the classic gift is a dozen red roses, but there are many more tokens which will last much longer...

Roses are red

:: The compact ‘Darcey Bussell’ from David Austin is a good bet, producing clusters of deep crimson rosette-shaped flowers all summer, combined with a fruity scent (from £16.50, www.davidaustinroses.co.uk)

Romantic blooms

:: The beautiful Peony ‘Red Charm’ from Claire Austin Hardy Plants is a gorgeous double glossy red peony that opens into a domed ball surrounded by large guard petals. Growing to 81cm tall by 75cm wide, the flowers are held quite upright on thick, stiff stems and each flower blooms for ages (£12 plus P&P, www.claireaustin-hardyplants.co.uk)

:: The pretty blooms of pieris should be in bud by Valentine’s Day and among the most eye-catching is the aptly named P. japonica ‘Valley Valentine’, with its cascading clusters of dusky red flowers, or alternatively opt for the Pieris japonica ‘Ralto’, which has variegated leaves and a pink flower, or Pieris ‘Katsura’, another variety with a red flower (£12.99, Hillier Garden Centres and available at other good garden centres)

:: If your Valentine prefers summer blooms which pack a romantic punch, treat her to a gift of Thompson & Morgan Begonia Majestic Mixed (£22 for six tubers, www.qvcuk.com)

Seeds of love

:: The new ‘Wine’ and ‘Dine’ Collections from Chiltern Seeds feature flowers with quaffable-sounding names including Clarkia purpurea ‘Burgundy Wine’, Lathyrus odoratus ‘Beaujolais’ and Scabiosa atropurpurea ‘Beaujolais Bonnets’, along with ‘dining’ varieties such as Strawberry ‘Temptation’, Capsicum chilli pepper ‘Hungarian Black’ and Asparagus ‘Connover’s Colossal’, which come beautifully and romantically wrapped (£10 for five packets, www.chilternseeds.co.uk)

Feeling fruity

:: The Forbidden Fruit kit may be the gift to get your loved one, a grow-your-own kit featuring two types of strawberries, goji berries, golden berries and Charentais melon. With seeds, pots, peat, and tips on how to grow the plants included in the box, it has everything to start the plants off before transferring them to containers or beds in the garden (£12.99, www.gettingpersonal.co.uk)

Gorgeous gifts

:: Using iconic floral imagery from the RHS Lindley Library, the Rosa Chinensis gift set in gentle green and soft romantic pink features gloves, trowel, fork, secateurs and Kneelo Kneeler to provide all she needs for everyday gardening (£64.95, www.burgonandball.com)

:: Sticking to a red or pink romantic theme, if you’re going to buy red flowers for February 14, then an accompanying red vase will go the extra mile. LSA International has a stylish bud vase, mouth-blown from a single piece of glass (£14.50, stockist details at www.lsa-international.com)

:: Stylish gauntlets and gloves from the Sophie Conran Raspberry Collection made by Burgon & Ball are comfortable and hard-wearing and add a splash of feminine colour while working in the garden (both £14.95, www.burgonandball.com)

:: Watering aids also make pretty accessories, including Hozelock’s AquaDeco globes in orange and red, which you fill with water and upend into your pot, indoors or out (£9.99 for three, www.hozelock.com and in DIY stores, leading garden centres and specialist retailers)

BEST OF THE BUNCH - Winter aconite (Eranthis hyemalis)

This clump-forming, tuberous perennial produces stemless, cup-shaped, bright yellow buttercup-like flowers on a ruff of light green leaves. It makes a good ground cover plant from late winter to early spring and is ideal for naturalising in dappled shade beneath deciduous trees and large shrubs, especially in chalky soils. Bulbs should be planted in autumn in fertile, moist but well-drained soil. Winter aconites spread rapidly to form colonies, which can be divided after flowering.

GOOD ENOUGH TO EAT - Onions

Onions from seed need a long growing season and you could sow them now in a heated propagator, for planting out in March. This is how exhibition growers manage to get large bulbs for shows. However, it’s much easier to grow them from little bulbs called ‘sets’, which can be bought from garden centres or via mail order for planting in March and April. The soil should be dug over thoroughly and weeds and large stones should be removed. Then each set should be eased into the soil (in straight rows) so the tips are left protruding, spaced around 10cm (4in) apart for large onions, and slightly closer for smaller ones. Cover the newly-planted sets with netting to protect them from birds. If you are growing carrots as well, interplant them with onions, as the oniony smell may deter carrot fly