Flowers for Valentine’s Day
February is the month for lovers, mothers and children. Valentine's
Day is commemorated with a plethora of flowers sent from one
person to another, to show love, friendship and caring. While
the symbolism of sending flowers to your loved one is obvious,
many people no longer realize that there are flowers other than
roses that can say "I love you." Most people who send
or receive flowers are unaware of the history of flower-giving
and the meanings attached to individual flowers.
Giving and receiving flowers was once part of an elaborate
and lengthy courtship in which many different types of flowers
were used to express sentiments and carry messages. Exchanges
of flowers would take place over weeks and months, through the
seasons, each as a conversation in flowers. Valentine's Day
could be either a part of the conversation or the culmination
of the courtship.
The language of flowers was a flourishing art in the Middle
Ages. It allowed a couple to express themselves without writing
or speaking (one could be overheard and letters intercepted)
in the presence of peers and chaperons. Since these courtships
took place over very long periods of time, the chance of someone
noticing and interpreting correctly any one flower in the exchange
was slight. Patterned to fit the ideals of courtly love, flower
language allowed intentions to be declared, refusals and acceptances
to be made, assignations arranged and lovers dismissed. Flowers
sent messages depending on context, accompanying flowers, and
how delivered. Some flowers had the same meaning but different
To express yourself in the medieval fashion on Valentine's
Day, give an arrangement of purple iris, crocus, and ivy. You
would be sending a message that your heart was aflame (purple
iris) with joy (crocus) and that you wanted her above all else
(ivy)—pretty heavy stuff. Red carnations sent to an absent
loved one would mean ardor and that you must see him soon. Snowdrops
sent to an old lover would say that you wanted to start the
The medieval flower?language survived into the Victorian age,
but the meanings were often changed. During the Middle Ages,
white roses said "I do not love you." Slowly, this
changed, until white roses meant innocence or “heavenly”.
New flowers were added, and meanings of old ones tempered to
match the era. The sending and receiving of flowers still remained
an elaborate ritual, and many of our contemporary interpretations
of "appropriate flowers" stem from the Victorian era.
This year, instead of sending your sweetheart red roses, consider
sending a bouquet of white lilies, red tulips and narcissus
mixed in with a small amount of stocks. After all, red roses
only express "I love you," but the mixed bouquet means
"It's heavenly to be with you; I love you, believe me;
always stay as sweet as you are; and you'll always be beautiful
Sending someone a bunch of purple lilacs means that you are
experiencing the first emotions of love. Mix them with some
jonquils to indicate you would like the affection returned.
Mothers and fathers take note! Should your daughter receive
Spider flowers for Valentine's Day, the young man has just asked
her to elope with him! If you are a diehard rose fan and nothing
else will do, send your mother some pink roses to tell her she's
still young and beautiful. White roses can mean either the person
is heavenly or innocent, or that you consider yourself worthy
of that person. Yellow roses express jealousy. Send them only
if your relationship is already on the way out. Give Tea roses
to your best friend to let her know you'll always remember.
To see more about flower lore and language, see:
Don't let Valentine's Day be just one day of the year. With
flower exchanges, you can keep the romance going all year round.
Valentine Gift for That “Special Someone” Gardener
There are certain basics which must be remembered when selecting
a gift for a loved one. First of all, get something useful.
Next, get something that they wouldn't buy for themselves. Then,
make sure it is a very special gift that will creep into every
conversation about joyful memories for a long time to come.
The acid test for the acceptance of a gift idea is to imagine
how you would feel if someone presented the same gift to you.
Some go for the sensory gifts, i.e., those that feel nice to
the touch or have an unforgettable fragrance. Obviously, there
is only one gift that applies perfectly to all of these—manure.
Manure is environmentally safe, and usually, non?hazardous
to your health. I use the term "usually" since there
are some who view manure as a vile, disgusting material that
shouldn't be discussed by those of proper social standing. Obviously,
gardeners are not of proper social standing because I have seen
them fight over a pile of manure. Gardeners look beyond the
objectionable aspects of manure and see the true value of a
magnificent pile. They remember the old saying that beauty is
only manure deep—or something to that effect.
Manure offers many benefits. The most notable are available
soil phosphorus and enhanced water infiltration rates. Normally,
inorganic phosphates such as those in 15?10?10, 10?10?5 fertilizers
are used for crop production. Chemical reactions with soil?and?water
calcium alter the phosphorus to forms that become unavailable
to plants. Fresh chemical phosphates need to be applied prior
to planting each vegetable crop. When manure decays, organic
phosphates are released and the total plant available phosphorus
level is also increased. Organic phosphates may persist for
many years after manure applications have stopped. The phosphorus
also moves much deeper into the soil than do inorganic phosphorus
Manure application also increases water infiltration dramatically
compared to plots without manure. In fact, studies indicate
that plots without man;ure can be properly irrigated five times
faster than non?irrigated plots. Manure also keeps soils from
tightly sealing while crops are growing.
There are three problems that can cause manure to be more
of a problem than an asset. A source of manure is hard to find
with so many gardeners scouring the countryside looking for
this barnyard delight. Secondly, one must consider the source
of the manure. If the animal that is kindly furnishing the manure
has been grazing on range grasses and weeds, chances are that
undigested seeds will cause problems in your garden. If animals
wouldn't eat so fast and chew their food properly, we wouldn't
have this problem! Thirdly, large amounts of salts in the manure
can kill garden plants if large quantities are used. Salt content
is one of the major problems of using sewage sludge—too
many water softeners polluting a potentially excellent manure
source—and feedlot manure where cattle are being fed high
Naturally, you would not want to give a loved one a gift which
might present the hazards listed above. Fear not! I have a remedy!
Nurseries in this area have sacks of manure that is pasteurized
and sanitized. The manure will be neatly bagged—perfect
for gift-wrapping—somewhat deodorized and 99.9 percent
pure. The salt levels are relatively low so large quantities
can be added to your garden without fear of plant damage. You
could even consider a gift certificate for Valentine's Day—certainly
enough to assure a loved one that you care enough to get the
How much manure should be added to a garden? Instructions
on the bags indicate 40 pounds per 100 square feet of garden
area. That is a good, safe recommendation, but if you want to
be adventurous, double that amount in one section of your garden.
Apply the manure at the 80 pounds per 100 square feet (8 pounds
per tomato plant which are planted 3 feet apart), till it into
the soil, then save a bag or two to mulch with. Plant a new
tomato variety or the Texas A&M Supersweet 1015Y onion transplants
into that area of "excessive" manure application and
let me know how it produces for you. Plant some in your regularly
prepared garden area without manure to have a comparison. I
predict that you will have an abundance of the largest tomatoes
and sweetest onions of your gardening career!
The most productive gardens in South Central Texas have been
fertilized with "too much manure." Give a gift for
Valentine's that will be remembered and enjoyed for months to
come. A gift certificate that will allow a loved one to “manure-ize”
the garden will show that you really care!