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Ask the Experts: What’s Your Favorite Valentine’s Day Flower?

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Ask the Experts: What’s Your Favorite Valentine’s Day Flower?

February 10, 2023

In the words of leading landscape architect Jinny Blom, “A pulsing blood red amaryllis is the best flower a woman can offer a love interest on Valentine’s Day. Gets the message across unequivocally.” An oversized, home-grown stem has the kind of passion that a sad, imported rose in cellophane could only dream of, weighed down as it is with environmental baggage.

In the name of meaningful offerings for this February 14, we have surveyed some of our favorite flower-oriented experts on what might be best received:

Sophia Moreno-Bunge of Isa Isa Floral

Above: Gloriosa lilies with ranunculus, in an Isa Isa bunch. Photograph by Sophia Moreno-Bunge.

Our old friend Sophia Moreno-Bunge is a floral designer with flair (and a gifted photographer) based in Los Angeles. “I always love red or coral gloriosa lilies (Gloriosa rothschildiana); they feel very fire-y and passionate and playful. My first choice though would have to be some very juicy and special pink or red, garden-grown California camellias. We get a lot of these here in the winter and they are always so lush and exuberant.”

Californian-grown Camellia. Photograph by Mimi Giboin for Gardenista.
Above: Californian-grown Camellia. Photograph by Mimi Giboin for Gardenista.

Frances Palmer, Ceramic Artist

Above: Ranunculus from a nearby state, in a fresh-out-of-the-kiln bud vase.

High days and holidays never take Frances Palmer by surprise; she is always prepared, even when her own New England garden is buried under snow. She suggests salmon and coral Ranunculus from the greenhouses at Hautau & Sons in New Jersey, to pair with any number of her own bud vases. Alternatively, a posy of pale hellebores.

Shane Connolly, Flower Decorator to the King

Above: “The whole idea of small and exquisite appeals hugely.” Snowdrops, left, hellebore, right. Photography by Britt Willoughby Dyer.

Shane Connolly, whose flowers adorned the Queen’s coffin last year, is a strong advocate of seasonal flowers, arranged without the unnecessary crutch of polluting flower foam. He believes that the subject of appropriate Valentine’s flowers has not been discussed enough. “If the beloved has a garden, I’d give them a rose plant. Personally I’d go for one of the divine old roses, ‘Souvenir du Dr Jamain’, ‘Francis Dubreuil’ or a rare treat from Trevor White Roses in Norfolk, England (doesn’t even have to be red!). Or one of David Austin’s superb red roses, like ‘Darcey Bussell’, or ‘The Prince’. I think the growing element is so exciting and lovely. And then you have roses for ever, and in season too.

“Failing that, I’d send snowdrops, the symbol of Hope in the language of flowers. Or some deepest coloured hellebores. Again, all these could be sent as growing plants, or cut flowers. But the whole idea of small and exquisite appeals hugely. Like a jewel—rather than a massive eco-unfriendly bunch from God knows where!”

Sam McKnight, Legendary Hairdresser

Above: Massed tulips of a single color. Photograph by Jim Powell.

Mainly known as the lodestar of hair styling, Sam McKnight has a parallel life as a flower obsessive on Instagram, focusing on his own London garden. He tells us: “I would go to New Covent Garden Flower Market (at Nine Elms, London) at 5 AM and get a huge bunch of the best tulips, in season from now. I’d find out the recipient’s favorite color first; make it really personal. And if that level of keen doesn’t frighten them off, you’re in with a chance!”

Ngoc Minh Ngo, Plant and Nature Photographer

Above: A thorny branch of flowering quince. Photograph by Jim Powell.

“Forced branches at this time of year are my favorites,” says Ngoc Minh Ngo, “especially flowering quince as we Vietnamese celebrate the Lunar New Year with them. Alternatively, I would give Hippeastrum, either in a pot or a stem. They are so exuberant and cheerful at this time of year, especially here in New York.”

Above: An exuberant Hippeastrum (aka amaryllis), forced bulbs that bloom cheerfully indoors in winter. Photograph by Sophia Moreno-Bunge.

Jeremy Lee, Chef-Proprietor of Quo Vadis, London

Above: The surprising romance of the bitter leaf, radicchio. Photograph by Jim Powell.

“Our greengrocer wants to give radicchio instead of roses,” notes Jeremy Lee, much-loved chef and recent author of Cooking: Simply and Well, for One or Many. Recently refurbished Quo Vadis on Soho’s Dean Street has the most floriferous welcome to any dining room in London, but Lee’s thoughts on the food of love originate in the kitchen: “How might the suggestion of a great tumble of large meringues piled with cream, clotted cream, curds and custard—studded with peaches, figs, raspberries and strawberries, and rivers of apricot and berry purées running through the cracks, ravines and fissures, with clods of almonds and pistachios, dusted with icing sugar sound? They are the most marvelous follies, frivolous and utterly scrumptious. And can be made more so with the dishes placed among a beautiful gathering of flowers, for further jollity and merriment.”

Jinny Blom, Landscape Architect

Above: Venus in fun furs. “A pulsing blood red amaryllis is the best flower a woman can offer a love interest on Valentine’s Day,” says designer Jinny Blom. “It gets the message across unequivocally.” Photograph by Jim Powell.

Internationally-renowned landscape architect and author of one of the best-selling garden books of all time (The Thoughtful Gardener), Jinny Blom does not mince her words when it comes to the fundamentals of the Feast of St Valentine.

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