Primula ‘Judith.’ The primrose suggests you cannot live without her. Photo by Leslie Cox

Primula ‘Judith.’ The primrose suggests you cannot live without her. Photo by Leslie Cox

DUCHESS OF DIRT: Love is definitely in the air

Leslie Cox

Special to the Record

As the countdown to spring begins in earnest this month, longer days and warmer temperatures are enticing us outdoors into the garden. Perhaps not to embark on too much work just yet but a stroll around the garden is never amiss even this early into the season.

There are signs of new growth everywhere. Fresh buds on tree peonies, camellia, azalea and magnolia. There are new leaves of primula, dwarf iris, aquilegia and winter aconite thrusting out of the soil; forsythia blossoms soon to burst open; hellebores showcasing their magnificence; snowdrops nodding their pleasure. Small wonder there is love in the air.

I am noticing many small birds are pairing off and disappearing into the cedar hedge or deep in the tall rhododendron. Male hummingbirds have actively ramped up their aggression to each other. Had one zing past my ear the other day with the second male in hot pursuit. They came close enough to feel their tailwind.

Eagles are also making their pitch for their mates to appear. We have an eagle who has claimed the fir trees in our neighbourhood as its calling station. In spite of its persistent efforts, no second eagle has appeared yet. Jury is out whether this is a young one looking for its forever mate or if its mate is just having an extended winter holiday. But I did notice the lone eagle in a Saratoga neighbourhood where we often walk Sadie has reunited with its mate. Definitely love is in the air and humans are no less immune to it.

Valentine’s Day…a day some say has become way too commercial and that may well be. But once upon a time, during the reign of the Romans, it was actually a pagan ritual involving blood and death. Is this why red is the designated colour of Valentine’s Day? Perhaps.

Or perhaps it is because the colour red signifies passion and romance and what better way to say that to your wife, partner, girlfriend, or lover than with a bouquet of red roses…preferably one containing 12 stems. But perhaps there is something else you would like to say to your better half and why not continue to say it with flowers?

The language of flowers, called floriography, does not extend back as far as Roman times but it does date to the 15th century and became very popular in Victorian times when “secret” messages were delivered by the flowers in a woman’s posy.

For instance, forsythia flowers nestled in fronds of maidenhair fern declares much anticipation for a secret bond of love.

Say it with white carnations and you are declaring innocence and pure love but a bouquet of striped carnations says “No!” or on a bit gentler note, “Sorry I cannot be with you.” Add in some cyclamens and you are “resigned” and saying “goodbye.”

Daisies also infer innocence and purity but they can also say “you will never tell.” The ultimate meaning would seriously depend on who is the receiver of the posy!

A rift between lovers or friends…give them a posy with purple hyacinths to say you are sorry, add some irises to say their friendship means so much to you and include branches of mistletoe to show your commitment to surmounting difficulties.

But let’s face it. A bouquet of roses does say it all whether they are presented on Feb. 14 or any other day of the year. Give her red ones for love, pale pink for joy, white for innocence and secrecy, lavender for enchantment, coral for desire. Then throw in some little primroses to say you cannot live without her.

Leslie Cox co-owns Growing Concern Cottage Garden in Black Creek. Her website is at

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