Considered by some as the most romantic day of the year February 14th – Valentine’s Day. *
The day when millions of red roses are given to loved ones across the country.
BUT how about giving something a little different - something that won’t just wither away within a week – that will flower year on year? Why not consider a perennial?
You could pick a perennial for its name, for its heart shaped flowers or foliage, or maybe for the meaning of its flower (yes even flowers have their own language!).
Here’s our A-Z of some of the most romantic perennials available. And while not all will be in flower in February, they’re sure to bring joy throughout the year, not only to your beloved but to our bees and butterflies too.
With its lovely dark foliage, autumn flowering Actea ‘Black Negligee’ is happiest when planted in the shade, it makes a lovely pairing with Anemone ‘Frilly Knickers’ complimenting its flower colour. Sending up lovely scented flower spikes that are white tinged with pink in the autumn, it is not only loved by gardeners, but the bees and butterflies too. It does like some moisture so make sure its not planted in too dry a spot. It will completely die back over winter and re-emerge in the spring.
♥ Romantic connection: instead of worrying about having to buy your loved one a special perfume, if you can wait until the autumn then the perfume from Actea is heavenly and fills the air. You can often smell their wonderful fragrance long before before you see them, which is definitely the case here on the nursery.
Who wouldn’t want a pair of these this Valentine’s Day? A new introduction, bred by Hardy’s and launched last year, this Anemone has lovely semi-double flowers each with a pale lilac outer edge. The individual petals are white and finely frilled along their edges. It prefers a bit of shade but can deal with some sunshine. Flowering through late summer into autumn, it's a welcome addition to any garden brightening up the end of the growing year. But other than its flower one of the best things about Anemone ‘Frilly Knickers’ is that it's a clump former, not like its cousins, the Japanese Anemones, that can run around.
♥ Romantic connection : in the language of flowers Anemones mean unfading love.
Things were much simpler in the time of the Ancient Greeks, when the tears of Astraea, 'Starry Maid' created the Aster flower on earth. More recently Aster has had a number of name changes and we now have Aster, Symphyotrichum and Eurybia. These plants provide starry shape flowers and come in a range of vibrant colours. They’re also perfect for attracting butterflies and bees into the garden. Here are two of our favourites:
ASTER amellus 'Rosa Erfullung' (Pink Zenith) is a mildew resistant variety with lots of large pink daisy flowers in late summer. Ideal for adding strong late season colour to the front of the border, it makes great combinations with yellows, blues and dark reds. These plants are happiest in a sunny position with fertile, free draining soil, where they will make tidy clumps that hold themselves up nicely. Available later in the season.
SYMPHYOTRICHUM novae-angliae 'Andenken an Alma Potschke'. Has vivid, double, lipstick-pink flowers flushed cerise, which are held on upright, robust stems with narrow mid green leaves. This striking 'New England American Aster' really packs a punch in a late summer to autumn border, delivering long-lasting sackfuls of colour. It looks particularly good with dark foliage or flowered ornamental grasses'. Easy to grow, it performs best in a nutritionally rich, moist soil in sun or partial shade
♥ Romantic connection: Asters are considered to be the herb of Venus, the goddess of love.
Not only does Brunnera have heart shaped foliage, it has flowers like forget-me-not's, little clusters of dainty blue flowers in the spring. Good in most soils, liking dappled to full shade, it can work as a front of the border plant or as ground cover. It is also deer resistant. Here's a selection of the ones we grow at Hardy’s:
Brunnera macrophylla ‘Alexanders Great’ PBR – this variety has large heart shaped leaves which are silver with green veins, brilliant for adding light to a dark corner of a garden. The silver foliage contrasts well with its cluster of blue flowers.
Brunnera macrophylla ‘Jack Frost’ PBR – Jack has smaller leaves than that of his brother, Alexander but he still has lovely silvery foliage with green veins.
Brunnera macrophylla ‘Looking Glass’ PBR – has the most silvery leaves out of the three mentioned varieties. Looking Glass really does add some light to a dark corner.
♥ Romantic connections: Heart shaped leaves will last all year long
Many of the Dianthus we grow in our gardens are also known as pinks as their petals look as though they have been trimmed with pinking shears. These plants are traditionally associated with weddings. We love:
Dianthus (Allwoodii Group) 'Doris'. This produces lots of fragrant clove-scented double flowers with pale pink petals tinted red at their base above mounds of finely cut grey-green foliage. This modern pink is a very useful front of border cottage garden plant, as its delightful evergreen foliage provides a complimentary background to its neighbours, even when not in flower. It is equally happy in a rock garden, trough or container. Its flowers also cut well for a scented posy. It grows best in a neutral to alkaline well-drained soil in full sun.
♥ Romantic connection: Dianthus is typically used to symbolize feelings of love, affection, gratitude and admiration.
A shade loving plant that has lovely delicate flowers in the spring, which are best seen when the foliage is cut back. They work well as groundcover beneath trees or shrubs. But, what makes this plant well suited for Valentine’s Day is its foliage, some varieties have leaves shaped like hearts. Here are a few to choose from:
Epimedium x versicolor ’Sulphureum’ – which has dainty yellow flowers in the spring and bronze tinted young foliage.
Epimedium pubigerum - which has dainty clusters of creamy coloured flowers in the spring.
Epimedium grandiflorum ‘Lilafee’ - has lovely deep purple flowers held over heart shaped foliage, adding a bit of wow to a border. This variety is deciduous, and gives a good show of autumn colour before dying back for the winter.
♥ Romantic connection: in the language of flowers Epimedium’s are a sign of strength.
Hellebores are the true show stoppers throughout the winter months, their flowers bring joy on the coldest and darkest of days. With a mixture of different foliage, flower shapes and colours, they truly brighten up the garden from late winter through to spring. Tolerating situations from sun to shade, depending on the variety, they can fit into most spots. From Helleborus x sternii ‘Broughton Beauty’ to Helleborus x ballardiae ‘Candy Love’ and Helleborous x sternii ‘Flame’ even their name can bring a bit of love into the garden.
♥ Romantic connection: in the language of flowers Hellebores can mean tranquillity and peace, they are believed to bring a successful and beautiful year ahead, if they flower before Christmas.
Who doesn’t love a Hosta? It’s a plant that fits into many gardens, and its foliage is often used in bridal bouquets. Hosta ‘Purple Heart’ is a lovely variety that has stems which are tinged a maroon colour and gorgeous purple flowers in the summer months. Liking shade to part shade, it is also a valuable addition to the border, adding architectural beauty. When planted in a pot, Hostas can be used to create focal points within the garden.
♥ Romantic connection: in the language of flowers Hostas are seen as sign of devotion.
A cottage garden favourite. There are a wide variety of Irises with fantastic shapes, colour and scent. One of our favourites is lris 'Jane Phillips' (TB). This is an elegant pale blue flowered Iris with a fantastic vanilla-scent in late Spring.
♥ Romantic connection: in the language of flowers, Iris represents faith, hope, courage, wisdom and admiration.
Know as bleeding hearts due to their arching stems of truly romantic, heart shaped flowers. Best grown in a sheltered spot with a bit of shade, these lovely clump forming plants flower in the late spring. If cut back after flowering a second smaller flush of flowers may appear a month or so later. These are great for planting beneath the branches of trees or shrubs. We currently stock three different varieties of Lamprocapnos here at Hardy’s:
Lamprocapnos spectablis – pink and white heart shaped flowers held over green divided foliage.
Lamprocapnos spectablis ‘Alba’ – pure white flowers held over pale green divided foliage
Lamprocapnos spectablis ‘Valentine’ – a true show stopper, with red and white flowers over darker foliage.
♥ Romantic connection: in the language of flowers it lives up to its common name and means romantic love and purity.
The one plant that is sure to be in flower on Valentine’s Day is the Snowdrop! With their bobbing white and green flowerheads they brighten up the garden bringing hope that spring is on the way. Nothing is nicer than a small vase of snowdrops in the house in the depths of winter.
♥ Romantic connection: in the language of flowers they mean hope and friendship apart from in Victorian times when they meant bad luck.
So, there’s a selection of plants that could be considered as romantic, and although not all would be in flower for the day itself, they are ready to bring joy throughout the year, and not just for a week in a vase.
Order by 8 February 2022
* in Wales, of course, you may have celebrated St Dwynwen's Day on 25 January.