Meet Mark Cullen

Canada's best known gardening personality, Mark Cullen believes that Canadians of all ages need to play more - preferably in the dirt. A best-selling author with over 400,000 books in print, Mark reaches over one million Canadians every week through various media outlets. He is Home Hardware's horticultural spokesperson and regularly contributes to various magazines, gardening shows and newsletters. With a familiar style that people can relate to, he delivers a message that is compelling, fun, informative and inspirational - all based on his organic approach to gardening. In his spare time Mark enjoys driving his Ford Model A - and of course he loves to garden.

Advice for traditional Guys this Valentines.

~ Wednesday, January 26, 2011

I know that Valentines is 2 weeks off: consider this a public service from your buddy Mark.

I am a guy, which means that I qualify as one of those people who does not take a lot of risks around the special occasion that we call Valentines Day.

I am a member of the majority of guys who buys red roses for his sweetie on Valentines Day. In spite of what you hear and read about buying candles and fragrances and underwear, the average guy – and I claim not to speak for anyone else here – is into dinner out and long stem red roses.

If we have a sweetie that really likes chocolate and is not likely to hit us over the head with a box of them, we might buy them too. But be careful with this one: chocolates can send a message that you have not been listening lately to the ‘does my butt look big in these’ questions. Read between the lines.

No Risk Giving.

So guys: if you are like me and not about to risk your most special relationship on a Valentines purchase that may not go over really big, stick to the roses. And if you are sticking to the long stem red roses, at least buy them with some measure of knowledge – which is where I come in.

First of all, some reasons to buy roses as an expression of your love for someone:
a. They do not last forever. That is precisely the point. Plastic does not say the same thing –in fact plastic flowers are a language that most women do not understand.
b. In the Victorian ‘language of flowers’ roses were a sign of loyalty and strength - that is why they are associated with royalty.
c. The same Victorians believed that Red roses were a sign of passion. Not a bad message on Valentines day, to the right person, right?

How do you know that your roses are fresh?

1. Give them the squeeze test.
Every self-respecting florist will get on the rose-delivery truck and squeeze the rose buds before taking delivery.
If the rose bud is firm – like an onion – you have fresh roses. If the rose bud is soft and mushy, best take a pass.
2. Look at the stems. Yes, the stems may be knobby and scrawny. If that describes your cut roses, you are paying no more than $15 a dozen and you are paying too much. Better to get 3 really good quality roses with some girth – about the thickness of a pencil, measured about 24 inches or 60 cm down the stem.
3. Long stems. That is why they call them ‘long stem roses’. They should be at least 30 inches long, if they are the real thing. And don’t let the florist cut off too much of the ends before plunging them into water or applying the water picks (see below).

Get them home looking good.

How do you get your investment in quality roses home is good shape?

The florist will put a ‘water pick’ on the end of each rose stem. Some people call these water condoms. Not me.
‘FloraLife’ is the brand name for the little envelope of preservative that is packaged with the cut flowers. Use the entire contents in the first vase of water.
Use a deep vase. The more water that makes contact with the stems of the roses, the longer that they will last.
Change the water daily. O.k. – you really want to score points with your sweetie? Change the rose water every day and use only room temperature, tepid water straight from the tap.
Put the cut roses in a cool room or refrigerator every night before bed. Think of the roses as your new pet –one with a short life, granted. But you can extend the life of your (her) roses by several days by exposing them to cool evening temps.

If your roses should collapse, which is not uncommon: the rose bud will just droop at the stem. This is a bubble of air that has become caught at the top of the green stem. Pre-moisten newspaper, wrap the entire rose, stem and all, in an upright position in the wet newspaper and put it in the refrigerator over night. By morning the rose bud should stand up on its own.

Viagra can help.

Finally, to maximize the life of your long stem red roses, drop a half a Viagra tablet into the water – the same water that you are going to change every day. According to a study at the University of Tel Aviv in Israel, this works wonders at helping your long stem roses keep their heads up.

This is a good excuse to buy some Viagra. If anyone meets you at the drug store cash out, just tell them that I told you that the stuff really helps to keep your long stem roses up.


And what you do with the left over Viagra is your business.

Valentines is a fun time, for those of us in love.

If you don’t have a significant other, than buy yourself some fresh cut flowers. The selection this time of year is at its all time best. The industry is geared to it, so go with the flow and indulge yourself.

And remember to keep your knees dirty.