Romantic Plants

1 Feb

Earl Nickel,
Curious Plantsman

Through the ages, flowers have played a pivotal place in the history of romance. Whether given as an open gift of love, slipped surreptitiously to a lover or simply kept as a cut flower bouquet to keep one’s romance kindled, flowers of all manner have been a potent signal of romance. While many flowers are used in florist’s arrangements, there are three ways that flowers have traditionally invoked an air of romance. Firstly, there are flowers that have traditionally been used to signal one’s affections. That extends far beyond modern day roses and flowers such as gardenias, carnations and mums used in corsages. A little research into the history of flowers leads you to the Language of Flowers. In that ‘language’, certain flowers have a specific meaning. These flowers were often used as a message to be given to a secret love.

Secondly, flowers that give off an intoxicating fragrance have long been used to signal affection. Roses, gardenias, carnations, sweet violets, lilacs and butterfly bush flowers remain popular to this day to stimulate the senses. Lastly, there are flowers that add texture and beauty to any cut flower arrangement and so have been used by florists to beautify a bouquet. Baby’s breath, ornamental grasses and Peruvian lilies are popular choices.

The Romance in Flowers

As Valentine’s Day approaches, Annie’s has a number of flowers sure to invoke an air of romance. Many of our most romantic flowers herald back to England. Annie’s grows a number of these cottage garden gems. Corn Cockle (Agrostemma) is one of the most charming of English flowers. Whether it’s the rosy red ‘Milas’ or the alabaster white ‘Ocean Pearls’, these tall and floriferous flowers are the embodiment of sweet affection. They love the sun and though they are annuals, they are known to self-seed.

Also ‘tall, dark & handsome’ are a wealth of Hollyhocks (Alcea). We love this stately & gorgeous flower at Annie’s and grow a bunch of ’em. Single or double; white, pink, red or black, hollyhocks’ beauty can make one swoon. This cottage garden stalwart is for when you want to go big and brassy in the flower arrangement. They love the sun and the heat.

For an unexpected pleasure, add some Avens (Geum) to your bouquet. A member of the rose family, the brightly colored, long blooming Avens adds a dashing splash of bold color to any arrangement. Whether it’s the ‘Totally Tangerine’ the orange ‘Koi’ or the ‘Blazing Sunset’ red, Avens flowers add a certain pizzazz to any bouquet. They too love the sun.

There’s a reason they named one of our favorite Pincushion flowers ‘Florist’s Pink.’ This ‘pretty-in-pink’ Scabiosa flower just oozes romantic feelings. Rising on tall stems, it’s perfect for a bouquet or for a vase arrangement. In the garden, this sun lover is a magnet for bees and butterflies, making it a valuable addition to any pollinator garden.

No mention of romantic flowers would be complete without three flowers we love here at Annie’s. The curiously named Shirley poppy (Papaver rhoeas ‘Pandora’) has frilly multi-colored purple to red flowers that will make any heart swoon. And though the frilly and papery blooms are short-lived, this beauty is a prolific bloomer, so there’s plenty of flowers to be had. Grow it anywhere in a sun to part sun bed and watch the steady parade of bees that will come a-calling

And you know when a plant has the common name of Cupid’s Dart that it’s a romantic must-have. Early Greeks and Romans used this Mediterranean native to make love potions, leading to its common name. Catananche caerulea possesses exceptionally pretty overlapping rows of bluish-purple petals and is a surprisingly drought tolerant plant. This low grower loves the sun and when cut back in the fall, will return fresh in the spring.

And what is more of a sign of love everlasting than Water Forget-Me-Not (Myosotis palustris)? Featuring flowers blue as a loved one’s eyes, this taller and perennial version of the common bedding Forget-Me-Not is a sure sign of one’s intentions. The taller stems mean you can flowering stems to any bouquet, to bring a bit of the blue sky to any arrangement.

Heavenly Fragrance

Perhaps no sense can spark our imaginations as evocatively as the sense of smell. Flowers possess many scents but sweetly fragrant flowers hold a special place in our hearts. And there are few flowers that evoke warm memories more than Sweet peas  (Lathyrus). From subtle to overpowering, sweet pea flowers are surely a piece of floral heaven sent to earth. Even better, their early spring blooming precedes most every other flower. And they are prolific, sporting a nearly endless profusion of flowers. So beautiful and fragrant are sweet peas that you really don’t need to combine them with anything else to have a sensational bouquet. And now (February) is the time to plant them, as they prefer cool sun.

If it’s volume, form AND scent all rolled into one flower that you want, you can’t miss with Butterfly bush (Buddleja). Forming fat, 6-10” long cones, butterfly bush flowers are an eye-popping addition to any vase or bouquet. The cones are made up of hundreds of tiny flowers and come in white, light pink, a rich maroon or glowing purple, giving you just the right color to add to a mixed bouquet. Their profusion of flowers make them a focal point in any sunny bed.

For those seeking a pure white flower and one with a distinctive fragrance, Pale Evening Primrose (Oenothera pallida) offers a large, snow white bloom, one that smells of sweet almonds! This perennial primrose is native to the western United States and can be grown as a sun-loving ground cover.

Sometimes it’s easier to take your sweetheart TO the flowers rather than vice versa. That’s especially true for the gregarious Sweet Autumn clematis (Clematis paniculata). Come fall, it smothers its dense foliage in small, white, star-shaped flowers that smell sweetly of vanilla. Talk about making a great first impression! Easy to grow and just as tough as it is beautiful, it’s a long-lasting vine that you’ll want to make room for. Give it full or part sun and the occasional deep watering and it’ll be as happy as a clam.

That Extra Wow

When you’re making your own Valentine’s bouquet or vase arrangement, you’ll want to add bit of fullness and texture to achieve the right balance. Peruvian lilies (Alstroemeria) are one of the best ways to add instant floral appeal, while adding some fullness. One of the most prolific and long blooming plants you will ever grow, your stand of Peruvian lilies will give you nonstop flowers from spring through late fall. They blend in nicely with just about any arrangement. Linaria ‘Flamenco’ offers both charm and texture and is super easy to grow. It tops wispy foliage with one-of-a-kind, vivid maroon and gold flowers. They add a pop of color and are a great vertical element. They will grow just about anywhere in your garden and you can tuck them into tight spaces. Though they are an annual, they give you plenty of flowers in one season and have been known to reseed.

Finally, many a florist likes to use a texture plant that has ferny foliage and one of the very best is Love-in-a-Mist (Nigella ‘Miss Jekyll‘). You’ll love everything about this plant, from the wispy delicate green foliage to the robins-egg blue flowers and finally the interesting seedpods. And it helps that Love-in-a-Mist self-seeds prolifically! You usually only need plant it once and then you have plenty to pick from in future years. Easy to grow and surprisingly drought tolerant, Love-in-a-Mist is the perfect complement for any bouquet or vase arrangement!

Whether you are fashioning a romantic bouquet for your beau or invoking the beauty of flowers in your kitchen or living room, these and other flowers bring a bit of garden romance into your life.

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