Avoid the clichés for Valentine’s Day. Top of the list is a dozen red roses with no perfume, grown overseas and under glass, and found in every supermarket, corner shop and garage forecourt, too.
Instead of the uninspired bouquet of choice, go British. Kally Ellis, at top florist McQueens, favours a big bunch of fragrant narcissi. “Either creamy, double-flowered Cheerfulness or other dainty, double-headed varieties that carry the perfume evoking the very essence of spring. You need at least one hundred stems to make an impact, in either all white or daffodil shades of citron to butter yellow.”
As the rose is the classic flower of love, Londoners still request them, but in vintage shades. “The dusky pinks and lilacs of roses such as Quicksand, Silverstone and Sandstorm are considered more romantic than the red rose and have wonderful perfume,” says Ellis.
“We team them with clematis, astrantia, lilacs and hyacinth, stoking up the perfume with aromatic herbs, such as rosemary, thyme, mint, marjoram and myrtle.”
Along with a perfumed candle, you could give the gardener in your life the gift of a bare-rooted fragrant rose that would bloom this summer. Present the shell pink French rose Fantin Latour with Roja Dove’s Rose de Mai candle, which incorporates the coveted oil extracted from the centifolia rose from which Fantin Latour was created, and you have a rather divine duo.
In the same way, Dove’s sublime Lavande des Alpes candle could underscore a basket of garden-centre Lavandula angustifolia plants. Honeysuckle and jasmine are fragrant climbers that add a romantic quality to any garden; you could send these, potted and ready to plant, together with Ken Turner’s Midsummer Night candle, which summons up an evening in an English country garden, complete with the scents of honeysuckle and jasmine. The glass candle-holder, after use, doubles as a posy vase.
David Austin’s garden roses are unparalleled for perfume — essential for a truly romantic Valentine’s bouquet — but you can find one straight-stemmed Austin special at The Real Flower Company. Rosa Kate has magenta petals of four inches across that deepen as the flower ages and has fragrance notes of raspberry, redcurrant, geranium and bergamot.
The company also has a Vintage Valentine’s Bouquet with roses of coffee-coloured Café Latte, fragrant peach Princess Charlene and claret Deep Secret mixed with rosemary, mint and eucalyptus sprays. You can raise the romance level by adding a trio of mini Moroccan rose-scented candles packed in the company’s signature hatbox. “We send out less and less red roses,” says Vic Brotherson, of Scarlet & Violet, the Queen’s Park florist renowned for its romantic touch. “It’s an easy option and it’s boring. They’re all going to die at the same time. Your money goes much further with lovely little handfuls of different flowers.
“For Valentine’s, we’re sending out peach and apricot stocks, blush-white anemones with black sooty centres and adding fragrant narcissus and hyacinth. Ranunculus, resembling spring peonies, are a good rose replacement. We might include roses but they need to have longevity as well as fragrance, so we use O’Hara, a large, French ivory rose, Yves Piaget, a deep pink rose, and our most popular, shell pink spray rose Majolica.”
Meanwhile, inventive gardeners could plan for Valentine’s bouquets next year by planting right now for seasonal spring blooms. A hand-tied bunch of home-grown Daphne odora stems, with their waxy pink, exquisitely perfumed flowers, a stem or two of fragrant Viburnum Dawn or Deben, a few sprigs of spicy-scented witch hazel and aromatic rosemary, with a camellia flower tucked in here and there, will rival anything the flower market can offer.