hybridtearoseBoyfriends, husbands, spouses and spices … You do know today is Valentine's Day, right?

So to help those perennial procrastinators and last-minute lovers, and to keep them from wasting money on the last pathetic vestiges of "they'll be dead in three days anyway" roses, here's a list of horticultural alternatives which, if properly cared for, could last a lifetime.

Right now, most independent nurseries and garden centers are loaded with every imaginable rose for the landscape. Let me give you four distinct horticultural groups you can purchase with my near total guarantee that your significant other will appreciate them. (I would guarantee them 100 percent, but I simply don't know your significant other on a personal level.) But you must tell them (or write in a card), "While roses from the florist or Kroger always die, I want these roses to be representative of our love. With proper care and attention, they will last a lifetime, too."

azaliasOoh, that's good! Write it down on an index card and use it like a cue card when giving something like a 14-gallon Knock Out Rose.

Category One: Roses! There are hybrid teas (above left), floribundas, shrub roses like the Knockout. The nurseries and garden centers have them broken down by color, scent and size. You simply can't go wrong asking for advice. For the same price as picked roses that will die, these could last for years.

comboCategory Two: Flowering Shrubs! Let's say that, for whatever reason, your loved one does not dig roses in any way, shape or form. The same concept and poetry holds true ... "flowers from a florist die, yada, yada, yada." But with something like an azalea (above right) or camellia or her favorite flowering shrub, once again we can make this last a lifetime.

Category Three: Containerized Combos! Most independent nurseries and garden centers, especially the mom-and-pop shops, have already-built containers with a myriad of combos. They can feature plants that will last a year or more — in most cases multiple years. But even if you fail to care of these beautiful container plants, they will last much longer than a dozen roses from Kroger. And let's say that, like my wife, your loved one is into something like succulents. This is an amazing horticultural gift, as you can see (left)!

redmapleCategory Four: Trees! Yeah, I said, TREES!!! Seriously, if your sweet something has always adored redbuds, Japanese maples, Texas red maples (right), plumeria or bougainvillea (Yeah, I know that's not a tree, but they're still beautiful.), get her one from a nursery or garden center already in color and looking remarkable.

I give you this advice knowing from personal experience how well it works, and my wife knows what I do for a living! So if you just consider any of these ideas for a second, and your special someone knows you aren't a horticultural expert, I promise they will be impressed with your decision to thnk of something outside the dozen-roses box.

As for chocolate, I have no horticultural substitute for that. So, if she's expecting it, I'm pretty sure my suggestion for bananas, strawberries and Nutella isn't the right move!

Valentine's Day Hangover at Southwest Fertilizer

southwestfertilizerBy the calendar, this is the time we get started with early tomato gardens, and we couldn't be at a better location for our first springtime GardenLine visit.

If you have an interest in having more than just a tremendous tomato crop or a luscious lawn this spring, summer and fall, Southwest Fertilizer, 5828 Bissonnet at Renwick, is the place to get all you need and then some.

You may have heard me say a time or two that Southwest Fertilizer is flat-out the most esteemed lawn and garden institution in the Houston area. I'm sure it started as a typical feed store back in 1955, but come see how it has evolved today. They do it organically and commercial-grade with every imaginable fertilizer, fungicide, insecticide and herbicide we could ever want, plus every tool we could need for lawns and gardens. They also sell a lot of plants specifically for vegetable and flower gardening in Houston.

To make our visit 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday even more enticing, our friends at Lady Bug Natural will be there with lots of goodies to give away. If you really want to earn some free stuff, bring me a problem to look at, wear your Lemmonhead shirt, or just be a true supporter of GardenLine and Southwest Fertilizer.

Hybrid Tea Rose by Ryan Somma
Pink Azalea Bush by James Hawkins
Combo by Buchanan's Plants
Red maple by Randy Lemmon