It’s easy to see why a Valentine’s rose once had some cachet. Before imported flowers became the florists’ standard, a blooming winter rose was mysterious indeed. But now roses in February seem unimaginative and frankly a bit strange, since they don’t flower (in the UK at least) until May or June.
Far better to give something seasonal, though there isn’t much around besides snowdrops. Or is there? Rachel Petheram of Catkin Flowers at Doddington Hall makes a local Valentine’s bouquet, grown in cold and windy Lincolnshire:
Photographs by Kendra Wilson.
Above: Rachel keeps her cut flower business “pretty low key” at this time of year, before the cutting garden becomes more productive in March. However, there is still plenty to choose from: the hellebore, euphorbia, rosemary, and mauve stocks shown here are from the garden at Doddington.
Above: The makings of a February bouquet. “First, strip all the leaves from the lower part of the stem and line up your ingredients in front of you,” says Rachel.
From the top, ornamental cabbage, Euphorbia oblongata, white anemone. Berried ivy, golden green Skimmia x confusa ‘Kew Green’, flowering stocks, and rosemary are all grown at Doddington, as are hellebores and foliage plants Senecio cineraria ‘Silver Dust’. The latter provides a contrasting foliage to the acid green euphorbia.
Above: White Anemone ‘The Bride’ from Fens in Lincolnshire, home to many traditional flower growers and nurserymen.
“Lincolnshire is a great growing county,” says Rachel. “We have wonderful soil. But you adapt to what you can grow: my zinnias are about four inches high so I grow something else.”
Above: Say it with cabbages. Shown here, ornamental cabbage ‘Crane’s White’, again sourced from Fens, where it would have been raised in an unheated glasshouse.
“People aren’t so keen when you say you are going to put cabbages in their bouquet,” muses Rachel. “But they are so blowsy and pretty, clients are always won over.” It helps to see them as cabbagey roses, rather than rosy cabbages.
Above: Putting it all together. “Make a ‘fan’ of the ingredients in your hand,” says Rachel. “Use your other hand to turn the stems to about a quarter, keeping the fan shape as far as possible. Then start again: add all the other pieces and twist.”
Above: “When all the plant material has been used, bring the posy together and tie it tightly where you’ve been holding it,” says Rachel. “Use string, raffia or paper-covered wire.”
Above: “Luscious, dark hellebores contrast with the pretty pink cabbages,” says Rachel. “They are quite vampish and stop the cabbages from looking too sweet—if cabbages can be called sweet.”
To make hellebores last longer in a vase, sear the stem tips in boiling water for ten seconds the night before and leave them standing in a bucket of water. When hellebores develop seed heads, they last “loads longer.”
Above: “Catkins create movement,” says Rachel. This curly hazel is from a friend’s garden, but the usual variety is all over the hedgerows right now, as is berried ivy. Catkins are an old favorite with Catkin Flowers.