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For Valentine's Day: Guys, consider live flowers over candy

Cyclamen have heart-shaped leaves and long-lasting 
flowers in vibrant colors, a heart-warming combination.
Cyclamen have heart-shaped leaves and long-lasting flowers in vibrant colors, a heart-warming combination. MCT

Valentine's Day is approaching like a rocket. I say rocket because that is precisely what it will seem like for some guys who are procrastinating on putting any thought into the project.

Guys, now is the time to put some thought into your Valentine's Day gift. I am a chocolate nut, but I am here to tell you: Candy is dandy, but flowers have power. Your local garden center has some ideal choices for your sweetheart.

The perfect plant might be the cyclamen. The leaves are heart-shaped, variegated and glossy — just right for Valentine's Day. But there is more. You simply cannot beat the cyclamen for the number of flowers it produces and its long blooming period. It comes in the traditional holiday colors of red and white, but the shades of pink and purple can leave you mesmerized as well. Rest assured you'll find this plant looking good a lot longer than a vase of cut roses.

The Reiger begonia is another great gift choice. The compact, bush-shaped plant produces attractive foliage and a large number of blooms. The bright, colorful flowers average 2 inches across and appear over a long season, blooming for months. Try clustering a few of these around a garden bath. She will feel as if she is in a resort.

Hydrangeas, often sold for Mother's Day, also are a great idea for a Valentine's Day gift because of their hot-pink color. After enjoying the indoors, they will be an attractive addition to the landscape and a pleasant memory for years. You could not ask for a more dazzling plant in the part sun garden.

Other good Valentine's Day plants are primulas, which can be grown on the porch or inside and are sure to get you out of the winter doldrums with their bright, festive colors. I am partial to the Primula acaulis hybrids. These are fairly short plants with short flower stalks, but they have colors so bold they almost look artificial. The Crayon, Lira and Quantum varieties are the most popular in this group.

Lastly, don't forget roses. Instead of a bouquet, how about a landscape rose, known for its enticing fragrance? Some of my favorites in this category belong to a group known as David Austin English roses. Look for Charles Darwin, an unbelievably fragrant yellow rose with the classic English look, or the equally showy Princess Alexandra of Kent, a stunning pink selection.

These can be planted in the garden in full sun and will be among the showiest plants in the flower border. If you are lucky enough to have a white picket fence where you can plant them, you will have created a Kodak moment.

Fellows, don't go home empty-handed on Valentine's Day. There is time to put thought into the gift. I urge you to visit the local garden center to see a host of options that will surely bring a smile to your sweetheart's face.

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