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Roses in February? - now whose idea was that? Was it truly the King of Sweden on a visit to Persia in the 1600s, where he learned about the language of flowers? Added to this we have a bit of Greek mythology where rose bushes grew from the blood and tears of Aphrodite and her lover, Adonis. Aphrodite was then reincarnated by the Romans, as Venus, their Goddess of love and beauty, keeping the rose as her symbol. Whatever the answer may be, the fact is we can’t grow long stemmed red roses in the UK for Valentine’s Day. They must be shipped in from South America and Africa, accompanied by a significant carbon footprint. But I must admit, you can’t beat a proposal with two dozen red roses; and I wouldn’t want to deny anyone that delight.
However, If red roses aren’t your thing, there are wonderful alternatives and as a grower, at this time of year, it could start with some early tulips – there are plenty of British grown tulips available. Try contacting your local flower growers (Flowers From The Farm have a great website with a map of growers across the UK). For me though, it has to start with sweet peas. I love the idea of sowing my sweet peas on Valentine’s Day. It is the epitome of joy for me with the prospect of bunches and bouquets of deliciously scented blooms for everyone in the summer. And there are so many to choose from.
Sweet Pea Seedling Training
I sow my sweet peas into root trainers, but tall pots suffice. I sow two seeds to each cell or pot and leave them in the Rhino greenhouse to germinate. I have been known to soak them before hand and I’m sure that has helped to speed up germination. When I have two or three sets of leaves above the cotyledons, I nip the tops off to promote branching. The seedlings will then be transplanted into a bed along one side of the greenhouse as well as the sweet pea tunnel outside. The stems are tied in to the frame as they grow. I then spend quite a bit of time trimming off the curly tendrils to make sure all the energy goes into the blooms, but it’s not compulsory. You can also retrain the stems along the ground and up the frames later in the season but that isn’t compulsory either. There is lots of wonderful advice for growing sweet peas online and I have enjoyed trawling around looking for a method that I like and feel able to cope with.
Whatever you do, even if it’s just growing them up a few canes popped in the ground, as long as you keep watering, feeding and picking them they will reward you till the end of the summer. Don’t forget to nip off any pods that appear as the plant then slows down flowering to set seed. My understanding is that if you do let the plant set seed at the end of the season, any seed you collect will stay true to its parent. Last year I grew from seed I collected and was impressed with the results.
I can’t think of anything lovelier for Valentine’s Day than a few of packs of sweet peas and cosmos. And maybe a beautifully scented rose bush (or two) to keep forever.
If you'd like to find out more about La-Di Dardy Flowers, you can find them on Instagram or go to https://www.flowersfromthefarm.co.uk/members/la-di-dardy-flowers