Flowers are not just for Valentine’s Day

Don’t be a once-a-year Valentine. Flowers say love in any season

The look of love: tall amber-coloured tulips make an elegant Valentine’s bouquet.
The look of love: tall amber-coloured tulips make an elegant Valentine’s bouquet. Photograph: Allan Jenkins
The look of love: tall amber-coloured tulips make an elegant Valentine’s bouquet. Photograph: Allan Jenkins
Allan Jenkins
Sun 14 Feb 2021 01.15 EST

It is Valentine’s Day today, a celebration of love, when mostly men still mostly buy red roses and chocolates. I’ll be buying tall French tulips, amber-coloured if I can find them. More likely in lockdown I will turn to the brilliant Billy Loves Flowers (billylovesflowers.com), who might drop me off a bunch or three on her return from a trawl through New Covent Garden Market.

I’ll also ask her to ask around for Henri’s favourite lily of the valley, hopefully complete with bulbs at this time of year. A spring-flowering delivery will be left on my doorstep at around 6.30am, like from an old-school milkman. I’ll likely wave from a window.

Men buying bunches on any other day can still be seen as a sign of atonement or early romance. It’s as though flowers are mostly a female thing.

We always try to have a couple of vasefuls, but this past year I have also turned to buying flowering plants in pots: bulbed amaryllis (Tosca is a favourite); bowls filled with hyacinths or paperwhites; trays of muscari, blue or brilliant white, thanks to deliveries from Billy and from Jane Scotter via Spring to Go. Under each isolation I have felt a more urgent need to bring the outside in.

In summer I carry home bunches of scented sweet peas, orange marigolds or unruly nasturtiums from the plot; companion planting for my companions. But our flowers are most likely grown at home on the roof terrace or in a window box. I occasionally yearn for a tropical greenhouse or more space, but for now that itch is soothed by overstocking my daughters’ – Kala and Radha’s – gardens.

Tulip bulbs, flowering herbs and hardy annual borders; swaying cosmos and calendula. Fences of clambering roses and clematis, of sweet-smelling honeysuckle and jasmine.

I love you, it simply says. With flowers.

Allan Jenkins’s Plot 29 (4th Estate, £9.99) is out now. Order it for £8.49 from guardianbookshop.com

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