If romance is on your mind around Valentine's Day but you aren't sure what to do, think plants. If you don't have much money to spend or don't want to make a huge commitment (Remember I am a garden columnist not a romance advisor!) purchase seeds with romantic names. Examples include "Classic Slenderette" Bush Beans , "Falling in Love" Shirley Poppies, "Painted Lady" Runner Beans, "Chocolate Cherry" Sunflower, "Valentine" Sunflower, and "Cheri Amour" Sweet Pea all from Renee's Garden (reneesgarden.com OR 888-880-7228). These are all organic seeds which adds to their appeal. Organic seeds come from organic farms which use crop rotation and compost and green manure instead of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. These seed packages are works of art with watercolor pictures of the plants on the front. The reverse has detailed growing instructions, growing notes, and information of harvesting and use.

Want to spend more? Give flowers. Now anyone with a credit card can send flowers. I suggest that you take the time to make a tussie mussie. True tussie mussies are small bouquets that can be given by either sex and are special because they involve the "language of flowers" where the choice of flower and its color have a specific meaning. They originated in Victorian times (late 1830's until the beginning of the 20th century). Layers of flowers and leaves are placed in a circle around a central flower and are bound together (I suggest using raffia.) If you wish to be very traditional you can back this with a paper doily or purchase a holder. The holders are made of silver or other metals and can be reused or simply treasured by the receiver.

What flowers will go into your tussie-mussie? It depends on exactly what you want to express. For example you may be thinking of a rose as the central flower . Be careful and choose wisely. White roses symbolize innocent love. Red roses symbolize passion. Pink roses symbolize romantic love. Yellow roses symbolize jealousy or simply remembrance. You can surround the rose with a number of different flowers or leaves depending on availability. These might include lavender (for luck or forgiveness), rosemary (for remembrance), carnations (for pure love, or you can put the carnation in the middle instead of a rose), witch hazel (for casting a spell), ivy (for wedding love), holly (for domestic happiness). Include a card with your gift that lists the flowers and what they signify.

OR plant a tussie-mussie garden in a container and present that to your loved one. The plants listed below are easily grown from seed and can be enjoyed for many months if given light and water. Basil is easily grown indoors and there are so many kinds : Italian Cameo, Spicey Globe, Genovese, and so forth. Basil means love and good wishes. Add alyssum which means worth beyond beauty. Forget-me-nots are an obvious addition. Parsley signifies joyfulness. Add pansies which are also called heartease, tickle-my-fancy, jump-up-and-kiss-me. Again include a card which gives the significance of each plant.

Oh dear, none of the above apply to you because you received a bouquet of flowers for Valentine's Day. Keep them fresh by cutting the ends of the individual flowers before putting them in a water in that vase. Trim the stems so leaves are not under water (They will decay..yucky!). Do not crush the ends of woody stems...this only damages them and does not increase their take-up of water. Change the water every two or three days and recut the ends. Keep your arrangement away from stoves and other sources of heat. Also keep your arrangement away from ripening fruit as the ethylene gas that is released from the fruit will shorten the time the blossoms stay on the stems.

Happy Valentine's Day! I love hearing from you.

Forever Young Magazine - February 2013