At times of celebration with a loved one - maybe a birthday or Valentine’s Day, it's a great excuse to have fun thinking outside of the box. What you probably don’t want to buy for someone special is something that can be found everywhere. Not everyone is a lover of cut flowers, chocolates, wine, Champagne, teddy bears or underwear. So you might want to engage in a little imaginative thinking. But first, what's the heart symbol all about?
The association between love and hearts goes back many centuries. Indeed, found within the ‘Fishpool Hoard’ of 15th century artefacts discovered in Nottinghamshire some 55 or so years’ ago, was a heart-shaped gold brooch. The symbol of a heart to represent love seems to have developed during the 1400s and became popular in Europe during the 16th century. Why?
A symmetrical, iconic heart-shape seems pretty dissimilar to the heart organ. Although, apparently, bird and small animal hearts look somewhat closer to the shape with which we identify. But falling in love with another human does result in a strong link between both heart and brain. Scientists have proven that the feeling of attraction creates adrenaline and this often causes heart palpitations. The flutter in a heart is real! Scientists have also discovered that it is also possible for someone to suffer health problems or even death through cardiovascular disease known as ‘broken heart syndrome’.
On a happier note, it’s highly appropriate to gift heart-shaped presents on Valentine's Day, and of course for a loved one's birthday. A ‘living gift’ is the way to go if you want to suggest that your love is growing. If your gift lasts for many years, that, alone, is symbolic.
Plants to gift as Valentine’s presents
There are many plants that replicate heart-shapes in their foliage, and none so obviously as Hoya kerrii, pictured above. This little succulent house plant has perfectly heart-shaped leaves and it is known as the sweetheart or Valentine plant for that very reason. As a succulent, it needs lots of light and not too much water. It comes from Asia where temperatures are warm and light levels are high. It stores water in its succulent foliage and needs only minimal care, including a little water on a semi-regular basis. Most Hoya kerrii are sold as single leaves in a tiny pot. These will grow slowly and the plant can eventually turn into a climbing or trailing vine which produces the most heavenly-scented flowers.
Or how about Kalanchoe 'Red Lips' (pictured above) if you're looking for a plant with an appropriate name for a loved one? It's another little succulent in a 6cm diameter pot. It loves a bright position and not too much water. The leaves are each rimmed in red and it will be a growing reminder of shared kisses.
Next, the highly popular and rather beautiful ‘chain of hearts’ house plant (pictured above) is another gift that will keep on giving. Ceropegia woodii has the most charming trailing foliage which looks rather like a delicate strand of hearts, all joined together on a piece of cotton. It looks perfectly at home spilling over the edge of a shelf or windowsill or dangling from an indoor hanging basket. Keep it out of direct sunlight, give it regular, gentle watering and you can’t go wrong. Most house plants can suffer from too much love when the plant parent provides too much water. This can prove a major downfall as soggy compost often causes root rot. The chain of hearts, above, however is a gem as far as maintenance is concerned.
If you want to give something that will grow outdoors rather than in, you can’t go far wrong with a rose. Rosa ‘Valentine Heart’ is just about perfect for the occasion. Unusually, the dusky-pink, scented flowers of this floribunda rose have heart-shaped petals. The recipient will have to wait until June to enjoy the blooms, but what a great reminder of the person who gifted such a thoughtful present.
Of course, there are many more plants with appropriate names, such as tulip bulbs called ‘Heart’s Delight’, the popular ‘bleeding heart’ which is Dicentra spectabilis, a rhubarb called ‘Valentine’ or how about ‘forget-me-nots, Myosotis sylvatica? Then there’s Nigella, a lovely annual that self-seeds abundantly, known as ‘love in a mist’, and the wonderful garden climber, Passiflora, which produces spectacular passion flowers (pictured below). Passion on a vine that will twine up a trellis and along a fence. Beautiful!
Once you start searching, the symbol of love is all around. Nurture your choice, then watch it grow… it’s a partnership to cherish!