Alys Fowler

Valentine's gifts for gardeners

If you want to impress the gardener in your life then a bunch of red roses probably isn’t going to cut it. Though a rose bush might, gardeners by their very nature are in it for the long haul.

A beautiful British grown bunch of seasonal flowers will be much loved and admired, but a packet of thoughtfully chosen seeds will go down just as well. Custard creams and wild flowers, need I say more? These pretty little paper custard creams won't fill the 11am hunger gap, but they will make the bees pleased in summer. A delightful in the post gift.

I’m never sure about red roses in the garden, they can be a bit jarring, particularly as they flower when the rest of the colour palette is very much pink, blues and purples, but a rose you can plant is a lovely gesture of longevity for Valentine's. You can’t go wrong with David Austin roses; a lad and lass that are bound to please. If you are going with climbers remember to check the overall height, some are monsters that can grow for 30ft and are not suitable for small gardens.

A beautiful climbing rose with lovely autumn hips, Shropshire Lass, is highly scented and a joy. You can still buy bare root plants now (much cheaper than in a pot). If you don’t want thorns and it’s a lad, you’ve got your eye after then Shropshire Lad (pictured below) might be more up your street. Shropshire Lad is a double, repeat flowering with very good disease resistance. It’s rather flouncy but in a delightful way. It also smells heavenly and as it only grows to 10 foot, it’s ideal for small gardeners.

Shropshire lad

If your gardener is more of a food growing type then I think you can’t go wrong with a fruit tree or a blueberry bush or a new variety of gooseberries or some raspberry canes. There’s a fruit for every garden, however small. You could go for strawberries for those with the tiniest space or an orchard for those with spare.

Keeper’s Nursery grows very high quality fruit trees and has a SALE ON, so there’s bargain for those with patience to trawl. Ken Muir is known as the strawberry grower (also has some very good growing guides so you could impress your love with some handy tips).

Everyone is going mad for these white strawberries that taste like pineapples. Just as easy to grow as regular strawberries, just happened to be white and taste like nothing like normal strawberries. An added benefit is that the birds don’t spot them quite so quickly as red ones, so there’s more for you to pick. Marshalls has a three for two offer on now.

These are the best secateurs I have ever come across. Other than the superb blades one of their benefits is that they bicolour handles making them very easy to spot if you lose them in the garden. I’d be won over instantly by this gift.

The storm kettle is invaluable for any allotmenteer. Fuelled by sticks, grass, pine cones and anything else you can find to burn in the garden, it not only boils very quickly there’s something so joyous about the whole process. It’s beautiful, efficient and will be loved for years to come.

You could even take your gardener to see some of the best waterlilies in the art world. Beautiful gardens in a warm environment and no one has to get their fingers dirty. An early morning visit to the Royal Academy to see this wonderful exhibition, Painting the Modern Garden: Money to Matisse, would be a very romantic gesture (you could go on for high tea at The Wolseley is you wanted to splash out).

The exhibition looks at how Impressionists were influenced by their gardens and it’s packed with iconic paintings and beautiful vistas. I say early morning because you want to get in before the crowds so you can stare at the final three paintings of Monet’s Agapanthus Triptych.

Whatever you choose for your sweetheart on Valentine's Day, I love blossoms and comes up smelling of roses. And if no roses appear when you wanted them take not in this lovely line from 'After a While' by Jorge Luis Borges: 'so you plant your own garden and decorate your own soul instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers.'