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Valentine's Day—Say "I Love You" with Moths and Lumber!


Q. I believe I have caught Mike in an error. Last year you recommended a Phalaenopsis (or 'moth orchid') as a Valentine's Day present, and said that a plant with lots of buds still unopened on the stem might still be showing flowers in July. I took your advice and bought a plant for my wife that only had a couple of open flowers and a lot of buds still on the stem. You were wrong: We had flowers opening up through mid-September! This seems especially impressive, because I generally can't make anything grow—in the yard or in a pot—so thank you for your suggestion."

---John in Washington, DC

I want to thank you for your tip on giving a Butterfly Orchid instead of roses for Valentine's Day. I had one sent to my wife Joyce at her office. It was a BIG hit!! New blooms just kept opening up!"

--- "Grampa Jim" in Germantown, MD

A. I'm always happy to successfully guide men through the treacherous path of St. Valentine's Day giving, but both of these men also deserve some of the credit because both did it right.

I always recommend a Phalaenopsis because it's the hands-down easiest orchid to care for, and the flowers last so much longer than cut roses. John maximized his investment by choosing a plant that still had lots of unopened buds, which guarantees a long flowering display. Imagine—a Valentine's Day flower still in bloom on Labor Day! And Jim gets bonus points for having it delivered to his wife's office—a brilliant move that allows her to show off his very thoughtful gift without any bragging. All the other ladies are sitting there thinking, "look what SHE got!" God help the poor hubby who has a half-eaten Whitman's Sampler waiting at home.

Now, let's examine why John called the plant a 'moth orchid' and Jim called it a 'butterfly orchid'. Members of the Phalaenopsis orchid family have a series of flower buds running up and down their stem. When a good number of the buds are open, the flowers look like little butterflies in flight. But when the plant was originally discovered, the flowers were felt to look like a synchronized swarm of native Tropical moths. So the 'official' common name is 'the moth orchid', but you can certainly call it a butterfly orchid if you like, as that's more the image that it calls to mind. (And the word 'moth' always makes me think of indoor pests like pantry and clothes moths and outdoor ones, whose larval ("worm") forms attack cabbage and broccoli crops and insidiously tunnel into squash vines.)

But I digress (what a shock!) Let's look at a few other perfect gifts for the 14th. Like red tulips, which mean "I love you" in the ancient Floral Code known as the Language of Flowers. Or, on the more practical side, the gift of a raised bed for folks who are still flat earth gardeners.

That could mean giving your honey an IOU for one bed to be built. But a lot of us aren't that handy—and life can sometimes get in the way of an IOU and turn it into a DNF. Luckily, you can buy kits that contain everything you need to create a perfect 4 x 4 or 4 x 8 raised bed—hardware, bed frames, corner posts and joiners. All you have to do is clear the area, lay down a layer of cardboard to prevent weeds, drop the frame into place, fill the bed with (ideally) a 50/50 mix of compost and a soil-free mix and you're ready to get growing.

Once they see how much easier it is to grow a summer garden in a raised bed, they'll want another one every year. And to totally tie it in to the holiday, you can write "For your apples of love" on the card. After all, tomatoes were once thought to be an aphrodisiac…

And finally, every gardener wants to see the Philadelphia Flower Show—the largest, longest-running indoor Flower Show in the world—at least once. And those who have seen it once want to see it again and again. So treat your sweetie to the real Greatest Show on Earth—with some very special perks. Buy them a membership in the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society and they'll receive Flower Show tickets and have use of the exclusive Member's Lounge at The Show…

…A comfy place to sit down, take a break, compare notes, edit your pictures and gear up for the next round of being awed and amazed—right there on the show floor. There's even complimentary coffee and tea. Members also receive Greenscene magazine throughout the year; and get discounts at the PHS store and selected vendors on The Show floor. And discounts on admission to lots of botanical gardens throughout the year.

And here's the kicker: You get all those extras for LESS than the price you'd pay for the tickets alone at the door. How much less? Onsite tickets are $32 each. A PHS membership with four tickets costs $105. Such a deal! Just go here and choose "household plus".

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