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Valentine for a gardener

Fresh cut flowers and jewelry seem to be the items of choice for a lot of people when they are out shopping for something to give that special someone on Valentine’s Day. There is nothing wrong with choosing either blooms or bling, but if your special someone is an avid gardener who loves all plants, you might consider being a bit more creative. There are plants that, because of their natural characteristics, lend themselves to being great Valentine’s Day gifts.

Many indoor plants have heart-shaped leaves, and this would be a good place to start. Probably the most common plant with heart-shaped leaves is the aptly named heartleaf philodendron. This plant produces long, trailing stems that sport six-cm-long leaves with a very definite heart shape. The plant is a foliage plant and does not flower. It is usually displayed trained on a decorative trellis, but it can be used as a hanging plant or set on a high shelf or cupboard where its foliage can tumble attractively from the pot.

Peperomia are wonderful foliage plants and they are not large so they lend themselves to being displayed on a small table or desk. Peperomia are tropical plants with thick, fleshy leaves that seem almost succulent-like. They are not succulent, however, and like high humidity and warm temperatures. They must not be overwatered; the soil must be allowed to dry out between waterings or rot may very well develop.

The small, three- to four-cm-long leaves of peperomia are heart shaped and often have interesting texture and colour. A dark-green one called “Emerald Ripple” has heavily puckered leaves while a variety with the common name “Watermelon peperomia” has green and silvery-grey variegated leaves and the variegation does indeed resemble the colouration of watermelon skin.

Another foliage plant with striking heart-shaped leaves is the arrowhead plant. This plant is a trailing one and is larger than the heartleaf philodendron, having leaves that are often 10 to 15 cm long. It can be displayed like the heartleaf philodendron — on a trellis or as a hanging plant. The leaves are very definitely heart shaped and come in a range of colours, often with attractive veining or variegation. One variety has dark-green leaves with burgundy undertones while another has gold and green marbled foliage. Like the peperomia, arrowhead vine is a tropical plant that prefers warm temperatures and high humidity. Also like the peperomia, it prefers its soil to be allowed to dry out between waterings.

All of these plants are happy in relatively low-light environments; they will be happy in bright light with no direct sun. They are easy-care plants and if you are giving one of them to your special gardener, the plants are common and will be familiar to them. If you don’t like the fact that there are no flowers and thus little colour, buy two or three red roses and ask the florist to cut the stems short and put each rose into one of those little containers that hold water and that can be pushed into the soil around the plant. Alternately, look for a few decorative red hearts of an appropriate size, fasten them to picks if they are not already so constructed, and stick those into the soil. Present the plant in a bright red sleeve or decorative pot. Maybe add a red bow to give the plant a more “Valentine” look, although the heart-shaped leaves of all of these plants will be the main attraction of this unique Valentine’s Day gift.

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