Friday, 07 February 2014 11:46

Don’t Let Valentine’s Day Get Your Goat

By Peter Bowden | Home & Garden
At last it is finally February, the only month that is 28 days long. By the time we’re halfway through it, it’s almost over. About all February has to offer is Valentine’s Day. So, how did this romantic holiday come about? It turns out that “romantic” is an appropriate term since Valentine’s Day appears to have originated from an ancient Roman fertility rite. Lupercalia The Roman holiday, Lupercalia, was celebrated on February 15 to honor the founders of Rome and to purify the women of Rome. This was accomplished as the priests of Lupercalia struck the women (gently, I hope) with the skin of a freshly slain goat called a “februa.” How amusing that my least favorite month of winter is named after the skin of a dead goat…just something else to not like about February. Anyway, Roman tradition led them to believe that this grisly ritual would assure them fertility and easy child birth. St. Valentine, the Renegade Priest Another tradition of this Roman holiday was the pairing of young boys and girls for the duration of the festivities. Later, as Rome was in its decline, the emperor, Claudius the Cruel, banned all marriages and engagements in an attempt to keep his legions at full strength. An early Christian priest named Valentine defied the emperor and continued to perform marriages in secret. Valentine was imprisoned for this transgression and died (or was executed according to other accounts) on February 14 in 270 A.D. As Christianity spread, the original pagan fertility flavor of the day was replaced with a celebration of romantic love with the now Saint Valentine functioning as the patron saint of love. Learning all this about Valentine’s Day didn’t increase its appeal as far as I’m concerned, and I’ve decided that I much prefer our modern customs of exchanging cards and flowers with our loved ones to celebrate our affection for one another. As I’ve said before, and you can quote me, I’m pretty sure that my wife would prefer flowers over a flogging with a dead goat. Red Roses Say, “I Love You” Naturally, roses are high on the list of preferred gifts for Valentine’s Day. Traditionally these roses are cut, bundled together with baby’s breath (now where did that name come from?) and presented to the object of our affection. How About a Living Alternative? In the past, I’ve presented such roses. These days however, I’m blessed with a wife who is as enamoured with flower gardening as I am. So, rather than giving my one true love cut roses that only last a week or so, I prefer to give her a gift that reflects the everlasting nature of my affection— a flowering miniature rose bush! Enjoy Now and Plant in Late May I know that I’m not the only one who prefers to give miniature rose bushes since they are now widely available at garden centers during Valentine’s week. Many who receive one as a gift fail to realize that miniature roses, as delicate as they appear, are winter hardy. This means that they can be planted permanently in the garden in a very sunny spot and will endure our harsh winters, returning each spring. We have one that will be starting its fifth growing season this spring. One of the reasons these little beauties are so hardy is that they are not grafted roses. Grafted roses have the stem of one type of rose that’s not hardy grafted to the roots of another type that is hardy. If the stems die over winter, the shoots that emerge from below the graft will not have the same flowers as the grafted canes. Miniature roses aren’t grafted. This means that even if the stems are killed over winter, the roots will send up new growth that will produce flowers in abundance when summer rolls around. Remember that miniature roses that are sold on Valentine’s day have been grown in greenhouses to produce flowers for the holiday. You’ll need to keep it growing on a sunny windowsill until its nice and warm (early June) before transplanting it into your garden. The miniature rose will likely lose some of its leaves after the flowers fade while it’s indoors. Don’t overreact by over-watering when this happens. Just keep plucking off the spent flowers and any yellowing leaves and wait until planting time. Once the mini rose adjusts to its new sunny location in your garden, it will bloom again and come back year after year to remind your sweetheart of just how thoughtful and romantic you really are. Thanks for the read.
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