The Back Yard
Justin Newcombe's tips for creating a gorgeous and productive garden

Gardening: Gifts from the heart

By Justin Newcombe

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Don't overlook some of the less popular flowers when it comes to bouquets, says Justin Newcombe.

The bouquet of flowers from Justin Newcombe's garden. Photo / Steven McNicholl
The bouquet of flowers from Justin Newcombe's garden. Photo / Steven McNicholl

On Valentine's Day you don't want to be the only one that didn't say I love you without saying "I love you". The pressure is on for you to say it another way: a romantic cruise - pray for good weather. A special outfit - make sure you keep the receipt. Maybe a new household appliance - perhaps keep a sleeping bag in the shed.

The safest way is to say it with flowers but that can cost an arm and a leg too, and the money would be better spent on a romantic meal and night in front of An Officer and a Gentleman.

The problem is, what's really on offer in the garden? Certainly not all of those fancy blooms flown in from around the world and certainly not roses.

The first thing I looked for in my garden was a nice rose. I did find a few and there are roses that will flower through late summer and even through autumn, but by this late in the season they're not going to express your undying love, more like "thanks for folding my socks".

I decided to have a go at making a Valentine's bouquet out of what was left over from a hard-flowering summer. I came up with a colourful, fun bunch of fresh flowers from plants which are often out of favour because they are too messy, too big, too shabby or just too much.

The fact is though, these survivors are providing some decent colour in the garden at a difficult time of the year.

Canna lily

Left untended cannas can look a right mess, and left for too long they can look a right big mess, but take a close-up view. You will find many powerful colours and big soft looking flowers that have all the attributes you need to send a message of love. They won't last all that long but you won't go short of blooms.


These are tropical flowers - big, red and hearty, a bullseye for Valentine's Day. Again not long-lasting but abundant.


Geraniums are very uncool plants, very hardy but much abused - I have noticed that with the recent penchant for naming children after flowers, Poppy, Rose, Daisy, and so on, geranium has missed out. Geraniums can be a bit messy but they have such a pretty vivid flower. On their own geraniums are beautiful ... like some children I know.


You might think these are only any good as a table decoration on salsa night but I've used yellow ones as cute highlights in my bouquet.

Silver spear

Add a bit of texture to things - some structure adds a bit of razzle to the flowers' dazzle.

These are just some of the super hardy flowers available to you this Valentine's Day. You can be as generous as you like and the message you send will light any candle. I love you darling, and I grew these for you.

3 of the best: One-liners for lovers in the garden

* I love you more than there are bees in the beehive.

* If I was a pot I'd want you as my plant.

* I am the trees, you are sun and together we are a garden.

- NZ Herald

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