3 Valentine’s Day gift ideas for flower lovers, garden enthusiasts

Valentine’s Day is coming; consider a gift of the future

Instead of giving cut flowers that will eventually fade away, how about “giving” an event experience that will make lasting memories, such as a trip to the famed Philadelphia Flower Show next month?

Philly’s is the largest indoor flower show in the world, with acres of major exhibits and breathtakingly perfect individual plants. It’s also the longest running American Flower Show — the poinsettia was first seen in the United States at the premiere Philly show in 1829.

This year’s theme, “Wonders of Water,” should make for an especially exciting experience, with guests entering the show through a canopy of exotic flowers in a brilliantly green rain forest setting. And yes, of course there’s a waterfall!

Also, by going to the Philadelphia Flower Show in March, you can give your loved one a million or so roses instead of just a dozen.

It’s an easy Amtrak ride away, and special deals on advance ticket packages abound. One of the best I found was the new “Duo Pack.” You get a pair of tickets good for any day of the show, March 3 through March 11; use of the exclusive member’s lounge located just off the show floor for a little R&R during your visit; and discounts in the show’s marketplace vendor’s section — all for $80. That’s the same price you’d pay for two weekend tickets at the door, but without the added perks.

Other deals abound, and you can print the tickets out to slide inside your Valentine’s Day card. Find the ticket options here.

A unique orchid opportunity

Looking for a unique horticultural gift for Valentine’s Day? The National Capital Orchid Society will hold its 40th annual auction of orchids Sunday, Feb. 11 at Behnke’s Nursery in Beltsville, Maryland. The event opens at 10 a.m. and the auction starts at 11 a.m.

Admission to the auction is free, so take that special someone with you; pay attention to the orchid (or orchids) they especially like; and then surprise them by bidding on one and winning their Valentine’s gift right before their eyes.

You don’t have to bid — you can just look at the pretty flowers. But, if you do win an orchid for your loved one, it’ll be a Valentine’s Day they’ll never forget.

Valentine’s freebies at the USBG

Want to do something nice with someone on Valentine’s Day but don’t have two nickels to rub together? Admission to the U.S. Botanic Garden is always free and there’s always lots in bloom. (Like Pennsylvania’s famed Longwood Gardens, a trip to the USBG always makes for a great date, especially a first date!)

And if you want to sweeten the pot, the USBG is offering two free guided tours on Valentine’s Day, Wednesday, Feb. 14. The morning tour runs from 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.; the lunchtime tour is from noon to 1 p.m. Both offer surprise highlights from the conservatory’s collection.

No registration required; just meet in the Garden Court of the conservatory about 10 minutes ahead of time.

The USBG is located right next to the U.S. Capitol. Find more info here.

In other advice: Help for hickories

Bill in Bethesda writes: “I have a mature hickory tree in the backyard that has a vertical slit in its bark about 6 feet long that begins near the ground, and another one that’s shorter and way higher up. I put chicken wire around the ground level slit as I don’t want deer to worsen the issue. (I at first thought deer were the culprit, but that seems far-fetched after seeing the identical issue higher up.)”

You are correct, Bill. Deer did not make the slits, but they could make things a lot worse by velveting their antlers near that damaged area close to the ground. Keep that part of the bark protected by fencing — but otherwise, don’t worry.

The kind of vertical damage you describe is generally due to “sun scald”: bright, summer sun heating and expanding a certain portion of the trunk, followed by a cold snap that freezes and cracks the bark. The tree should be able to heal this kind of damage naturally. Horizontal cracks are the kind to worry about.

Mike McGrath was Editor-in-Chief of ORGANIC GARDENING magazine from 1990 through 1997. He has been the host of the nationally syndicated Public Radio show “You Bet Your Garden” since 1998 and Garden Editor for WTOP since 1999. Send him your garden or pest control questions at MikeMcG@PTD.net.

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