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  • What is the most common Valentine’s Day gift?

    I suspect flowers!

    78405930According to the game show Family Feud – which is about the only thing on the television when you’re housebound for 2 weeks with an upper respiratory infection ­during the Christmas holidays – women don’t like getting flowers and candy for gifts, even though men think they want them.

    If you watch long enough, you’ll discover they like furs, money, nice cars and jewelry. I suspect they polled people in Beverly Hills and few in Illinois.

    However, I wonder if the question were asked, “What is the most common Valentine’s Day gift,” I suspect flowers would be somewhere near the top, if not the top.

    Flowers definitely won’t last as long as a diamond bracelet or a BMW. But they can make just as important a statement. Of course it makes a difference what type of flowers you give your sweetie. But we want to state ­categorically that no flower is really bad, except maybe a bouquet of ­dandelions, or anything that might cause someone to break into an allergic sneezing fit.

    Roses are the royalty of ­flowers. There are some growers that’ll ­produce flowers as large as a liter bottle with stems 5 to 6 feet long. Of course, you’ll pay one of your feet for each of the flowers, and need a crystal garbage can to display them.

    Most of us are happy with fist-sized flowers and 18-inch stems.

    Red tends to be the color of choice, though white, pink and yellow aren’t anything to sneeze at, unless of course you have those aforementioned allergies.

    The downside tends to be the cost, though like most flowers, the cost hasn’t risen as much as a house or car in the last 20 years.

    One of the worst things to happen to roses is limber neck, where the flowers look great one minute and then just nod over the next as if they’re going to sleep. If you lift up the sleeping head and look under the flower head, the stem is probably a little dark and shrunken.

    Limber neck usually occurs because the flowers weren’t conditioned ­properly which causes the internal vessels to collapse.

    To avoid this cut an inch off the stems as soon as you get the flowers home and plunge them in warm-plus water, not too hot but not too cold – between bath water and washing dishes in the sink water. The warm water pushes up the stem, filling the neck and flower.

    If the flower is drooping, you might be able to sink the stem up to the bottom of the flower head. However, there is no guarantee warm water will do the trick.

    It doesn’t hurt to put the little packet of floral preservative in with the warm water.

    Warm water and floral preservative is the course of action for any fresh flowers, whether roses, daisies, lilies or carnations.

    David Robson is Extension Specialist, Pesticide Safety for the University of Illinois. drobson@illinois.edu.

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